The Unexpected Consequences of Love
Narrated by Beverley A. Crick
I love contemporary romances set in the U.K. and have enjoyed many of Jill Mansell’s novels. This book delivers on the setting, with most of the action taking place in a seaside town in Cornwall. I enjoyed parts of this novel, but with at least three primary couples featured, no single story gets enough attention. Add to that some odd problems with the narration, and this audiobook falls short of a recommendation from me.
As the book opens, photographer Sophie Wells’ latest shoot goes horribly wrong. Her client wanted a Ralph Lauren style photograph of her family, with everyone dressed in white, in a lovely room in the Strachan hotel. That pristine-whiteness is destroyed when a mud-drenched, rambunctious dog breaks into the room and spreads his mud over all the whiteness. Josh Strachan was responsible for the dog’s condition, and while embarrassed at the situation, is impressed with the way Sophie handles the situation, and is even more taken with Sophie.
Josh is back in the seaside tourist town in Cornwall to run his family’s hotel after spending years in the United States managing a popular teenage musical group. After a brief conversation, Josh asks Sophie out for a date, but Sophie refuses. We eventually learn that Sophie doesn’t date, having given up men.
Through an extensive series of flashbacks we learn about Sophie’s marriage in her early 20s and the series of sad events that led to its end and to Sophie’s current attitude toward men. Sophie’s reactions at the time seem real, as do most of her current behaviors. The narration was successful in these flashbacks; I could hear Sophie’s sorrow and hurt in her words.
If the story had focused primarily on Sophie and Josh I would have been much happier. I was satisfied with the voices Ms. Crick used for both of them, and felt their emotions were spot-on. In the early portion, I could almost hear the sparkle in Sophie’s words when she talked to Josh. Unfortunately, we’re soon introduced to a whole host of secondary characters and their assorted romances; and the narration is more of a mixed bag for some of the supporting cast.
Key among these is Sophie’s friend Tula. Someone describes Tula as “that kind of girl who always means well but ends up in awkward situations,” and she encounters a lot of these awkward situations throughout the book. I didn’t like Tula, finding her often superficial and irresponsible, and my dislike wasn’t helped by the annoying voice – alternatively whiny and grating — she was given. At times it was so bad that I cringed when Tula spoke.
Tula quickly develops a crush on Josh, despite his obvious focus on Sophie. However, another character, Riley, is very interested in Tula but she wants nothing to do with him. Riley is described as every parent’s nightmare. He lives with his aunt – a famous romance author – and spends his time surfing, sleeping with women, and traveling the world. None of this makes Riley remotely appealing, and the odd voice the narrator uses for him made him even more difficult to like. Even worse, at times Riley and Tula sound identical, making it hard to figure out which of them was speaking.
There are a series of other romances and potential romances – told both in flashback and in the present – with such characters as Josh’s grandfather and grandmother, Josh’s grandfather’s late-lover, Riley’s aunt, and Josh’s grandfather’s late-mistresses former husband. Yes, if you followed all of that, most of the “mature” characters have more than one real or potential relationship. These secondary romances aren’t told in a few brief passages; they’re frequent and lengthy, making the book feel like an interwoven series of short stories.
With the exception of Ms Crick’s interpretation of Tula and Riley, her narration was adequate. The pacing of the narrative is good, and the characters’ emotions generally come through successfully. For example, when the text says that a character “panted,” that’s exactly how the narration sounds.
My primary problem with the story is that I wanted far more of Sophie and Josh, and far less of the many secondary characters. As for Ms. Crick, I’ll probably want to do a bit of sampling and read some reviews before I purchase another romance narrated by her.
Breakdown of Grade: Narration: C+ and Book Content: C+ Unabridged Length – 11 hours and 17 minutes