Carrie Goes Off the Map
Authors of chick lit stories are often able to take more chances than traditional romance authors, such as allowing the hero and heroine to have multiple love interests before finding the right one. While I can’t say that it is my favorite plot device, it does add an element of unpredictability to stories, and that I do like. However, I can’t always suspend belief in the speediness of the resolution after most of the book is spent having the characters involved with the wrong person. That is what happened in Carrie Goes Off the Map, a book first published 2009 in the U.K. under the title It Should Have Been Me.
Carrie Brownhill and Huw Brigstocke’s wedding is just a week away when he suddenly says he wants out, leaving her devastated and bewildered. She had no idea that he was so unhappy. Screaming at him for answers, he only replies that he feels trapped and suffocated. They met ten years ago at university and immediately became a couple. Carrie was studying English and drama and had dreams of appearing at the West End, but was willing to put those aside because of her love for Huw, which led her to living and working beside him on his large family farm. Four months later, she discovers that “trapped and suffocated” is an embellished euphemism for another woman. He is getting married to Fenella Harding, the head of the accounting firm that handles the farm books.
The enraged Carrie plans to disrupt their wedding, but a cooler head prevails. She does settle on destroying the outside flower arrangements even though her vandalism is discovered by former uni colleague, Matt Landor. Huw’s wedding is the impetus Carrie needed to get on with her life and what better way to do that than a road trip with her best friend Rowena and Dolly, a split screen VW camper van.
Matt has to deal with his own issues. For over a year, he has been on the small island of Tuman providing medical care to the small population. Working for a medical charity is his life’s blood, but after an accident leaves him with PTSD, his boss orders him to take a four month leave. At thirty-three he doesn’t believe he will ever settle down, and is happy to hook up with an old uni friend especially since she is between lovers.
Rowena is suddenly offered a part in a new television show. Knowing that her boyfriend will never let Carrie drive off alone with Dolly, Rowena asks Matt if he would be interested in going with Carrie since he is the only one that she knows who is free to travel. Faced with either cancellation of the trip or going with Matt, Carrie finally agrees. She soon discovers that instead of traveling Europe, she is stuck in England because Matt’s passport has expired. At the first stop they encounter a group of surfers, and Carrie decides that a rebound sexual relationship is exactly what she needs to forget about Huw and his betrayal.
Along with a large portion of the book having the hero and heroine involved with other people, the whole free spirited concept of going off in an antique VW van seems so dated and 1960s hippie-ish, as are some of their indulgences. Still I could have accepted this if the characters had been more clearly drawn. The book seems very delineated with snapshot characterizations of Carrie and Matt shown one way in one scene, then differently in the next. And the abrupt changes bothered me. One of Matt’s actions toward the end, plus the actual ending, also seemed to come out of left field.
The writing is engaging, and the book definitely didn’t bore me, but I didn’t have the usual happy ending glow upon finishing it, even though this story has an HEA. Still, I am open to reading other books by Ms. Ashley even though this particular story didn’t quite work for me.