From the first chapter I was certain I was in for a treat. As David Atkinson described the beauty and romance of Andy and Lindsay’s perfect wedding, I knew – from the book’s blurb – what was to come. I almost held my breath as the marriage was blessed and doomed – all within those first few pages.
The poignancy of a motherless child and widowed husband watching a DVD of that ceremony set the tone for the book. But difficult moments were made bearable with well-written and perfectly pitched humour.
There’s often an inevitability with a rom-com – we expect tears of joy and a happy ending, but just how was the author going to reconcile such painful loss with that conclusion?
I often make notes when I’m reading a book. By page thirty, I’d simply written, ‘wow’. It wasn’t the humour – at that point we were still learning about Andy and Lindsay’s life – it was the emotion that poured from the pages that had that particular wow factor. Later, my notes recorded the ‘laugh out loud’ moments. A particular exchange towards the end of chapter ten demanded a ‘double lol’. By that time Andy was embarking on dates and this is where the dialogue showed how skilfully it had been crafted. Awkward conversations can read as stilted. But here the author managed to portray the reticence and nerves of our hero – it read like a polished script.
Good dialogue stems from the creation of believable characters. Lindsay, in particular, was given such a strong personality that even in death, she was a force to be reckoned with. Carrie (a wannabe date) had a buzz of reality about her fully-charged nocturnal habits.
David Atkinson’s engaging plot springs more than a few surprises. Andy Hunter has a blokeyness about him that endears. Females think they know and understand men – and female writers can create men we reach to recognise. But you can’t beat a bloke – a talented one – writing about their kind and giving them the look of a crumpled shirt and the emotion a broken heart.
Acknowledging that dating is a minefield within the ultimate battle of the sexes, Andy Hunter does what a lot of us do when we need help, he googles. Even with our virtual advisors, dating in the 21st century isn’t straightforward. Finding some help from ‘Men like Women and Women like Shoes’, he goes with his instincts and suffers the unfortunate consequences – wisdom, it seems, can’t be downloaded.
For a number of reasons, single parents form a large part of our society and one of the elements I enjoyed in this book was how Andy Hunter coped with a role he neither desired nor deserved. His love for his daughter was paramount to the plot – Amy was always going to be the big love of his life.
When you’re writing for a niche market it would be too easy to write in clichés, basing the plot on the tried and tested themes we often see in books and films. David Atkinson hasn’t fallen into that trap. As the plot’s loose ends are tied up, more seemed to unravel. It’s not until the final pages that the author allows the reader to release that held breath.
Anyone who likes their romance with a touch of realism and not too much syrup will adore this book. The male of the species, if they’re lucky enough to get their hands on it, will recognise themselves or their mates – perhaps both.
If you thought you had tired of this genre, give it another ‘byte’ – Andy Hunter certainly deserves it!
The book is available from Amazon and is published by Buried River Press (imprint of Robert Hale Ltd).
I received a review copy from the publisher.