Book Reviews, Contemporary

Review – ‘Long Way Home’ – Neve Cottrell

 I decided to read Long Way Home on a whim. I am not generally a fan of ‘chick-lit’ or ‘beach read’ romances, but I decided to spread my wings and try something new. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this book very much; the writing style was clunky and the story and characters simply reinforced the things that I don’t like about most romantic novels.

Alexis MacAdams grew up on Mangrove Island, but left after finishing school to get away from what she saw as a claustrophobic community that didn’t understand her. Seventeen years later, she is a corporate lawyer in London and still hasn’t returned, until now. It is the Christmas holidays when she shows up on her parents’ doorstep after years of not even a phone call. She tries to mend the broken ties she has with her parents and sister, and meets Tyler, a man who has had a crush on her since school.

81cbO3W+UxL._SL1500_From the description of this book in the Kindle store, I was optimistic. I love stories with lots of characters and interesting family dynamics, but I don’t feel like the relationships between the characters of this book were believable, and I just grew more and more frustrated with Alexis. Even though Alexis must be 30-or-so by the time we meet her, she seems to think and behave like a teenager. At no point did I, during the book, understand her motives for not speaking to her family for so long. Fair enough, you don’t exactly feel like you see eye to eye – most teenagers don’t – but for you not to tell your family anything, from your marriage to pregnancy to being widowed just seemed ridiculous.

I also became frustrated with the whole aspect of her family which was so gender-segregated and sexist, not because of it in itself, but because it didn’t seem to be written very well. There are hundreds, if not thousands of books where families have more ‘homely’ expectations of their daughters who want to achieve something else, but it just wasn’t addressed consistently in this book. At one point, Alexis seems to see her legal career as superior to those of the women in their family whose life centres around their families, and yet we see that in the middle of her career she wanted to become a stay-at-home mother, and then later she praises her sister for balancing career and motherhood – but none of this seemed to be linked in any sort of character development, it just felt like Alexis had really inconsistent beliefs about women.

Alexis’ romance with Tyler was actually, in my opinion, the centre of this novel, and not Alexis’ family reunion, but I just found it uncomfortable and unbelievable. Mainly, I found it difficult to see the relationship as anything but Tyler being in love with his high school crush rather than the woman in front of him, the same way that if you put a teenaged One Direction fan on a date with Harry Styles she would probably do nothing but stare at him and tell him how beautiful he was. I also found it pretty unbelievable that, even though the pair had never spoken, she didn’t even know who he was, she hadn’t been to the island in seventeen years and nobody had even heard from her, that Tyler could be so madly obsessed with her – and that is what it was, no longer an innocent crush, he was obsessed with Alexis. I would have believed the story a little more if there wasn’t so much emphasis on his having dreamt of his chance with Alexis his whole life, and all other women paling in comparison to this seventeen year old image of a girl he never knew, and if the story had just been of two strangers falling in love. Instead it felt like an awkward and slightly scary fanfiction, which phrases about Tyler’s “vibrant erection” just confirmed (Does this remind anyone else of Ms Perky and the ‘quivering member’ in 10 Things I Hate About You?)

My final complaint, although being the last is in no way the least important, is that the writing style of the book was just too stiff. There is an often repeated saying among writers that says, “Show, don’t tell,” and that it what this book really lacked. Scenes that could have been truly emotional and striking were ruined by Cottrell just telling us everything. For example, in the scene where Alexis is remembering being told that her husband has died, instead of feeling what she is feeling, we are just told that it is “the worst day of her life” and that “she spent the rest of the day sobbing and vomiting”. We are walked through the most emotional scenes as if we are reading a news report or a script, which meant that most chances at connecting with the story or the characters were wasted.

Overall, my main reason for finishing this book were that I was already past the halfway mark when I started contemplating giving up on it. If you like clunky and awkward chick-lit romances, this may be the book for you, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I still maintain hope on finding a ‘beach read’ romance that I enjoy and connect with, more than just finish because I don’t want to give up on it, but so far I have yet to find one.

Perhaps you can recommend one to me in the comments below?

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