This month’s SuperWendy’s TBR challenge is for a random pick. I read Rachael Lucas’s Wildflower Bay. Firstly, here is the blurb and be warned that I discuss spoilers beyond it including my opinion of the love declaration:
This little island has some big secrets…
Isla’s got her dream job as head stylist at the most exclusive salon in Edinburgh. The fact that she’s been so single-minded in her career that she’s forgotten to have a life has completely passed her by – until disaster strikes.
Out of options, she heads to the remote island of Auchenmor to help out her aunt who is in desperate need of an extra pair of scissors at her salon.
A native to the island, Finn is thirty-five and reality has just hit him hard. His best friends are about to have a baby and everything is changing. When into his life walks Isla . . .
Earlier in the year, I read both Rachael Lucas’s Sealed With a Kiss and Coming up Roses. Neither book set the world on fire for me in the romance corner but I did enjoy the overall stories. Her books are romances but they lean heavily toward the community and friendship, Aga-saga, small-town/village stories.
Wildflower Bay is the story of Finn MacArthur (errant hot sleep around dude who did it with the heroine from Sealed with A Kiss before she hooked up with his BFF and her OTL) and Isla Brown, a top notch hair stylist from Edinburgh who loses her cutthroat job and steps in to help her aunt out on the Scottish isle of Auchenmor for a few months. Isla who thrives on the bustle of the city is not all that impressed by living in such a quiet place nor with her aunt’s old style salon. After a while though, she starts getting on with the staff, develops a liking for Finn, gets on incredibly well with Finn’s Ma Ruth and develops a friendship with Lily the weird hippy-enlightened touchy feely resident who runs alternative lifestyle sessions (the whole Lily and crystals and demon child secondary storyline felt ridiculous and I really wanted to take a red editor’s pen to this section and slash slash slash away as I didn’t feel it added anything whatsoever to the narrative except to make fun of people with crystals and to give heft to the book’s word count). I also felt that Isla’s backstory was excruciatingly long and navel-gazing woe-is-me, I’ll-show-them-at-the-school-reunion-that-I-am-spesh annoying. To her credit, Lucas delivers an anti-climax for Isla in the form of a reunion which makes Isla realise that everyone else grew up and she really didn’t need to angst throughout the book (dammit! So much angst over nothing).
Once we have met Isla and she has lost her job and is heading for the island, the story turns to Finn who wakes up one morning with his latest one-night stand walking out and he questions what he wants out of life and maybe he should start looking for something more permanent. This is about the whole insight I got into Finn’s romantic, personal longing for entanglement with a significant other. Sure, he had a heap of other character building story going on that made him complex etc etc but I felt that the romantic side of his story was a bit lacking. Isla too seemed rather detached from relationships (she tells you as much). The two have several chance meetings on this very small island and over the space of the two months they slowly develop a friendship and eventually grow to love each other. I must say that much of the romance remains off the page and rather understated. Down to the love reveal (if I could even call it that) where Isla and Finn read out to each other his Ma’s posthumous letter to the two of them saying that they should give each other a go and they both shrug and agree because…you know, if Ma says it, it must be love. As love declarations go, this one sucked. It actually bored me.
I am doing a bit of a disservice to the novel here as I did like the book as a friendship and community story. I really like Rachael Lucas’s Scottish setting and her sharp and lilting dialogue amongst all the characters giving the book a strong Scottish brogue with lovely language nuances that made me feel all melty and Monarch of the Glen(nish). I especially like the social mores that she builds into her stories. There are no judgements for having one-night-stands (for males and females) with older characters having the attitude of “you’ve gotta let loose every now and then”. This is particularly refreshing in light of the US romances I read that can be rather moralistic and have a overriding purity code. I think that this occurs in US books and in many M&Bs (even if they are authored by UK authors) even if the protagonists are not virgins. Australian rural romance is sits between the US and UK (though I say this lightly as I have only read a handful of rural roms). This reflection of strong social responsibility without the overriding slut-shaming, virginity code is one of the reasons I like reading Rachael Lucas. Not much is made of sleeping with someone who is not the hero/heroine’s grand love and it happens on the page not in the backstory.
Yeah. Overall, the novel was OK. I will definitely read more of Rachael Lucas’s books as she puts them out but I really hope that she amps up the romance feels.
I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library in New South Wales.