Desert Isle Keeper
The Write Escape
The Write Escape combines the fantasy escapism of falling in love in a charming small foreign town with very real problems, including self-empowerment, racism and generational cycles of alcohol abuse. It’s mostly successful and very dreamy on all counts, with a couple of flaws in its conclusion keeping it from a flat out A.
Antonia – Toni – Harper works at Wild Hare Publishing as a literary editor, all the while squeaking out time to work on her own book and dealing with her firm-of-mind mom, who hates Antonia’s fiancé, Derek. The wedding is approaching, and with rumors of her job’s destabilization and all manner of little problems looming, all Toni wants is some wine and not to think of the details. Within four days of heading off on their destination wedding, Antonia happens to be holding her fiancé’s phone when it buzzes. A little bit of research brings the ugly truth to light – Derek’s been cheating on her for months. The wedding is definitely off, and by the next morning she’s out of a job thanks to her boss’ illegal financial dealings. Toni decides to go to Ireland to heal and figure out what comes next with only her novel as a companion. And it soon turns out that ‘next’ for Antonia involves discovering that her room’s been given away, and instead of staying where she’d planned, she’s going to be moved to somewhere smaller.
Doctor Aiden Byrnes teaches American Literature, and is dealing with a terrible break-up. Hoping for a promotion from assistant to actual professor, he takes a disastrous class filled with sleeping students, but his mentor promises to write a glowing recommendation that will move Aiden up the academic ladder, and suggests he unwind by taking a vacation away from the bustle of Galway, if only to finish his own book. The little house he owns in a small riverside village should suffice.
Living next door to one another, Aiden and Toni’s meet-cute takes place in the tiny Irish town of Tully Cross while in line at a supermarket. Before long, they’re falling into like with one another, and Aiden takes to showing Toni around town. Soon they’re in love, but when Aiden’s past rears its ugly head, Toni must choose where her own happily ever will take her. Will it be back to Aiden’s arms?
The Write Stuff does a fine job of both transporting the reader to Ireland and making us feel Toni’s inner conflict as she tries to figure out if she wants to write professionally. Reid does good work in making readers believe in Toni as an author, and to understand her fight to become a fully-fledged author; and when she wonders to herself what her heroine Augusta would do in such a situation, I believed in her thought process and in her as a writer.
Aiden generally works as a sexy through fallible hero with issues left over from his absent, drunken father’s abuse. I appreciated how much he liked and respected Toni – although his ‘Irishness’ felt a little overdone and sometimes he leaned on it a little too hard with his nonstop “Jaysus”-ing.
The romance was very cute – and more importantly, very well-grounded. Toni and Aiden have a lot of emotional healing and self-loving to do, and the romance bolsters this growth instead of hindering it. This is how Toni comes to find herself as a woman instead of a trophy for her callow ex-fiancé, and how Aiden realizes he won’t replicate his father’s drinking and abusive behavior.
The secondary characters were fun – Aiden’s mom was a hoot, as were Toni’s mother and sister.
The book’s only real problem is The Big Breakup that happens near the end, which really didn’t really work for me; Aiden pushing Toni away in that moment, after what she’d seen and what she knew about him, didn’t flow at all.
But otherwise, The Write Escape has the right stuff to keep a reader firmly fascinated with its fun, fallish beauty.