Thursday, August 8, 2013

Book Review: On Dublin Street, by Samantha Young

Title: On Dublin Street
Author: Samantha Young
Release Date: October 2012 (UK ebook)/January 2013 (UK paperback)
Publisher: Penguin (UK)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Bought from Waterstones
(Find it on Goodreads here.)

Description: Jocelyn Butler has been hiding from her past for years. But all her secrets are about to be laid bare...
Four years ago, Jocelyn left her tragic past behind in the States and started over in Scotland, burying her grief, ignoring her demons and forging ahead without attachements. Her solitary life is working well - until she moves into a new apartment on Dublin Street, where she meets a man who shakes her carefully guarded world to its core. 
Braden Carmichael is used to getting what he wants, and he's determined to get Jocelyn into his bed. Knowing how skittish she is about entering a relationship, Braden proposes an arrangement that will satisfy their intense attraction without any strings attached. 
But after an intrigued Jocelyn accepts, she realises that Braden won't be satisfied with just mind-blowing passion. The stubborn Scotsman is intent on truly knowing her... down to her very soul.

My thoughts: I heard a lot about this book last year on the 'Smexy Books' and 'Fiction Vixen' blogs, but at the time it just sounded too much like yet-another-innocent-girl-meets-billionaire-and-kinkyness-ensues story. I was wrong. Very wrong. [Just as a note, both characters are financially well off, and there is 0 kinkyness, just hot sex. ;-)] I finally picked it up earlier this summer when I saw that it's actually quite a long book, and is written by a Scottish author - I felt like I should give it a chance, and see how Ms Young wrote about Edinburgh (where I go to university).

This was one of those books where, right from the first chapter, I knew it was going to be good. It evokes Edinburgh so beautifully, and that continues throughout the book. The setting doesn't feel forced in any way - it's not as though Samantha Young is inserting typical Edinburgh/Scotland features in, so that a reader knows where they are - it's more subtle than that. Characters walk down this street, past a row of buildings that look like that, they get swamped by tourists in August when the festivals come. Maybe it helps that I live there, but I felt like she really brought it to life.

As the story begins, Jocelyn has finished uni and is looking for somewhere new to stay. On her way to what turns out to be a successful meeting with a new flatmate, she ends up sharing a taxi with 'the Suit'. They flirt a little in the cab, but he has a girlfriend, and Jocelyn won't tell him her name. Of course, it turns out he's the older brother of the girl Jocelyn has started living with, which they discover when he comes into the flat while she's rushing naked from the bath to grab a towel. Scenes like that had me laughing as I read it, which is lucky, as there are also plenty of parts which had me reaching for the tissues. Jocelyn didn't have an easy life before she came to Scotland for uni, and her relationship with Braden drags out a lot of memories and things which she hadn't dealt with, as well as throwing up a whole new set of problems as she figures out how she feels about him and what she wants.

 Braden also comes with an interesting history and has had some problems with previous relationships. Something else I liked though was how close he is with his family now, and that they have these big family Sunday dinners each week - I love seeing large happy family groups in stories. It was very touching how they bring Jocelyn in to their group, and gradually get her to overcome some of her solitary tendencies which she's built up to protect herself.

This is a very very emotional book, with Jocelyn and Braden both having a long personal journey until they can be happy together. I love that it's not just about their relationship. Although at first Jocelyn seems to have everything working perfectly for her, she has to learn to let old friends and new into her life a little more. The way living with Ellie and letting her into her life affects Joss is just as important to the story as the intimate relationship she gradually forms with Braden. I can think of moments when something each of those three characters did made me slam the book shut and have to go walk around for a while before I could go back to reading. The 'secondary' characters are that well built that I felt just as attached to people like Ellie as I did for Braden and Joss.

I think 'On Dublin Street' is a really well built novel, bringing all the characters and the setting to life so vividly that it was easy to get lost in the story, or to imagine that next time I walk along Prince's Street I might bump in to one of them. It might be a romance story at the heart, but it's much more of a personal journey for Jocelyn, for her to really grow up and accept what has happened in the past and to move on with her future.

I know I'll read it again and again, and I'm kicking myself it took me this long to get to it - I absolutely recommend it. 10 out of 10.



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