Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve
A trip that should have taken seven hours, lasts almost a day – time to reveal relationships in turmoil, minor dramas involving wrists and ankles, an unlikely hero and a mystery lurking around one of the five passengers.
The Road Trip is a romance writ large. The characters, mostly twenty-somethings, are completely absorbed in sex, drinking, liaisons and an occasional contemplation of a purpose or direction in life.
It is a book that encourages an unreal dream-like escapism.
Addie is a holiday caretaker in a villa in Provence, a glamorous setting. There she meets Dylan, a guest, and the chemistry between them takes over.
Marcus, his very close friend from school days, enters the scene and Instantly creates a disturbing shadow over the blissful pair devoted to enjoying their holiday affair.
Addie is intimidated to learn that both men have, at some time, loved a glamorous model/writer Grace. She is wildly attractive, blessed by circumstance, and like Dylan, Marcus and the characters in Addie’s new surroundings, is expensively educated, wealthy and slightly bored by so much good fortune.
At the outset, she and her sister, Deb, are in Deb’s mini, bound for their extremely rich friend Cherry’s wedding in Northern England. Almost immediately, a car crashes into the rear of the mini, and the passengers within emerge in an amazing stroke of coincidence, – Marcus and Dylan. They are joined by Rodney, also heading for the wedding. This is a kindly advertisement for a mini which survived with mere dents in its bumper, whereas the BMW could not be driven.
Two years have passed since the summer in Provence, and it is obvious there are undercurrents churning between Addie and Dylan, not calmed by Marcus’s constant barbed comments.
The novel then switches between chapters that explain events which have occurred in the two years prior, involving the four (but excluding Rodney), then returning to the trip to the wedding.
The journey does not fail to engage, entertain, and indulge as the evolving and intertwined lives of the four progresses until they finally reach their destination at a grand wedding venue.
Sometimes the humour is immature or outrageous. Marcus draws a penis on Dylan’s forehead, Deb has a ‘quickie’ with Kevin, a truckee, en route, Rodney is restrained to prevent his attending the ceremony, and Deb, a single mum, regularly uses a breast pump often with unfortunate timing.
The fast-developing romance between Dylan and Addie is related with intimate detail while Marcus is an enigmatic friend, at times casting a shadow over Addie’s happiness.
Those who enjoy reading of the dilemmas of those passionately attracted to each other, will appreciate The Road Trip. The close confines of the mini adds a pressure that builds and indicates a solution has to be arrived at – and the wedding provides this.
The Road Trip is never dull. Marcus is the most interesting as a complex and unpredictable character. Dylan’s acceptance of the vagaries of this, indicates deep-rooted loyalty and an attachment that raises questions. In fact, it is eventually suggested that a homosexual love for Dylan was confronted in Marcus’s therapy sessions.
Beth O’Leary is established as a successful author. This is her third book and is guaranteed to have enormous sales. A ‘happy ending’ is mandatory in this genre and she accomplishes this with skillful flourishes – which even extend to Dylan’s parents. His mother leaves his bullying father, at last.
References to climate change, gender inequality, racism, or addiction to devices are absent.
Rather, The Road Trip is a celebration of what many regard as a personally relevant and very important issue – finding and keeping one’s true love!
The Road Trip
by Beth O’Leary
ISBN 978 15294 0906 2