Popular British author Moyes (The Girl You Left Behind, 2013, etc.) offers another warmhearted, off-kilter romance, this one between a financially strapped single mother and a geeky tech millionaire.
Ten years ago, Jess Thomas got pregnant and dropped out of high school to marry Marty. Two years ago, hapless Marty temporarily moved out of their home on the southern coast of England to sort out his life. He never returned. Cleaning houses by day and working in a pub at night, Jess barely earns enough to support her 10-year-old daughter, Tanzie, and her 16-year-old stepson, Nicky, whom she’s been raising since he was 8. Jess worries constantly about sensitive Nicky, a moody goth regularly beaten up by the local bully. Math genius Tanzie presents a different crisis: She’s been offered a generous scholarship to a private school her current teachers say she needs, and Jess can’t come up with the balance. The only hope is winning prize money at a math tournament in Scotland, but how to get there? Meanwhile, one of Jess’ cleaning clients, computer whiz Ed Nicholls, has come to stay in his seaside vacation home to avoid publicity surrounding insider trading charges. He and Jess share an instant mutual dislike, but when he ends up drunk at the pub, Jess makes sure he gets home safely. Partly out of gratitude, but largely to escape pressure from lawyers, his ex-wife and his sister—who’s nagging him to attend his father’s birthday party—Ed offers to drive Jess, her kids and their large dog to Scotland. A road-trip-from-hell romantic comedy ensues, complete with carsickness, bad meals and missed signals. Unsurprisingly, hostility evolves into mutual attraction. But Moyes throws in a few wrenches, like Tanzie’s failure at the competition, Ed’s father’s cancer and the cash Jess has secretly kept since it fell out of Ed’s pocket at the pub that first night.
Moyes has mastered the art of likable, not terribly memorable, but far from simple-minded storytelling.