Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Review: Down London Road by Samantha Young
Title: Down London Road (On Dublin Street, #2)
Author: Samantha Young
Rating: 4 Stars
Young surprised me, nearly a year and a half ago, when she released On Dublin Street. Usually, I struggle with the romantic genre, but despite the cookie-cutter appearance of On Dublin Street, its unexpected depth, warm characters, and complex love story won me over, heart and soul. By the time Down London Street rolled around, however, I bought myself a copy and proceeded to forget about it in the hidden depths of my Kindle. It got lost somewhere in my TBR Collection and though I would glance over its cover online, the synopsis failed to capture my attention and it slipped my mind. Again.
Desperately in the mood for an intense, all-emotions-consuming romance, however, I stumbled upon Down London Road and, re-calling the roller-coaster ride of emotions I went through while reading On Dublin Street, prayed that Young's sequel would be even half as good as its predecessor. From the moment I began reading Down London Road, though, I already knew it would exceed my every expectation. Quite simply put, Jo's narration sucked me in. While I re-called her character - and the worst aspects of her persona - quite vividly from On Dublin Street, I expected only to like her grudgingly, as the novel wore on and revealed her many layers. Yet, from the first few sentences itself, Jo's heart and soul were laid bare with her frank, honest voice which bled through the pages and I found myself a goner, re-evaluating everything I knew about Joss's friend and sympathizing with her every step of the way.
Stuck caring for her alcoholic mother and younger teenage brother, Jo's life has been far from easy. While juggling two jobs, she finds the time to snag rich, older men in the hopes that marriage and wealth will solve the plethora of problems she finds herself facing every morning. Accompanying her current "sugar daddy" at an art exhibition, Jo meets Cameron, a sexy young graphics designer who takes one look at her and immediately judges her. Long past caring what others think of her, Jo shakes off Cameron's rudeness and finds him a job as a bartender, working alongside her. As Cameron gets to know Jo, however, stripping away the layers of her day-to-day facade and acknowledging his prior errors in judging her too quickly, the two form a fast friendship and grow to unexpectedly trust one another as well; somewhere along the way, love slips in.
What I've come to appreciate about Young's romances are the fact that they so effortlessly subvert tropes. While the romance genre is known for its general predictability, Young forces her strong, independent, and intelligent protagonists to confront their own personal problems and face them. During crucial moments of common misunderstandings, Jo deigns to discuss her issues with her boyfriend, not hide them from him and stew in silent agony. While that isn't to say that Jo faces her own set of troubles at every corner, it makes for a painless read as Jo fails to stumble into the tell-tale potholes that countless romantic heroines have found themselves in. Jo even goes so far as to steer clear of the problems Joss faced in On Dublin Street which only made me appreciate Young further. Instead, the dilemmas brought up throughout this narrative are real, harrowing ones. It is impossible to feel emotionally detached from Young's characters and, as a result, my heart ached and my pulse quickened with every new problem brought forth.
Down London Road isn't the easiest of reads to breeze through, but the character relationships - everything from friendship to strong sibling bonds to true love - are strong, vital components that drag this novel forward. Young is a master at complexity, but she has also mastered the art of conveying the heart within her novels into our own hearts as well. Down London Road was just the sort of riveting, engaging read I needed to propel me out of a reading slump. Moreover, it certainly didn't hurt that I met a couple of unforgettable characters along the way.