An aspiring playwright, fresh out of college, moves to the city of her dreams in this debut novel.
After an inauspicious arrival, including delayed baggage, a sudden downpour, and cramped living quarters, Alexandra “Alex” Sinclair settles into a routine of sorts in London. Still, the Emory University graduate battles with occasional panic attacks as she navigates the ups and downs of living abroad, including an economical housing arrangement that sparks many complications. She hopes to deepen her relationship with her father, who returned to his native England after divorcing her mother many years ago. But Alex also desperately wants to make it on her own, without financial assistance from him, so she seeks employment opportunities that will allow her the flexibility to work on her writing projects. Eventually, she will face a blatant case of plagiarism and other acts of sabotage, so she is fortunate to rely on the support of relatives and friends, principally Lucy, a former online acquaintance, and Lucy’s sidekick, Freddie. They both share Alex’s obsessions with Doctor Who, Sherlock, and the like. Will Alex ultimately make some real progress with a love interest? Will her chief antagonist finally receive a richly deserved comeuppance? Undoubtedly, Middleton’s novel is a love letter to London. As such, it goes a bit overboard in its effusive style and passionate outbursts, but the underlying sentiment remains sweet and contagious. At times, the author is overly fond of clunky similes and unlikely coincidences. For instance, Alex’s accidental reunion with Lucy (with whom she had lost contact) is one of the plot mechanisms that strains credibility, though most of them involve her encounters with a potential suitor. Middleton sometimes risks venturing into the realm of torrid, bodice-ripping romance novels, as in this overwrought passage: “Friday’s kiss and the possibility of seeing him today kept her awake last night, teasing and tormenting her; the ache for him still constant, it warmed her like a fever that wouldn’t break.” Still, despite these minor drawbacks, chances are that even the most skeptical or cynical readers will surrender to the many delights of this compelling narrative. Prepare to be seduced by engaging characters, irresistible in their own quirky way, and transported by keen descriptions of the sights, sounds, and tastes of London (plus two side trips to Manchester).
One need not be an Anglophile to enjoy the heroine’s London adventures, but it definitely adds to the overall experience.