Head Over Heels
Author Jill Mansell
Narrated by Gemma Dawson
Published by Tantor Media
Publication date Sep 5, 2017
Running time 14 hrs 2 min
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
Welcome to Jill Mansell’s wonderful world! In the picturesque village of Upper Sisley, everyone thinks they know their neighbors, but nobody knows what scandalous surprise is going to happen next.
1. An unexpected reunion between two former lovers changes both their families forever.
2. Old friendships fade and new ones blossom as neighbors begin to see one another in a new light.
3. A young woman finally asks for what she really wants, a young man atones for bad behavior, and both find that courage brings its own rewards.
Surprises, companionship, crossed wires, and self-discovery in a story that will leave you completely satisfied, and begging for more. https://tantor.com/head-over-heels-jill-mansell.html
As I began listening to this story, I felt as if I had been inserted into these many characters’ lives without preamble – I felt confused. Usually, with Mansell’s feel-good, small-village stories, that’s fine as she usually provides perfect tension in interplay of the here-and-now and past events. Mansell is usually expert at weaving the multiple storylines together into a charming story that leaves me satisfied. This book has some commonality of old and new loves and current events but in this case it works out differently. And, how I felt about it was also different.
The main story is about Jessie and Toby, two people who were once in love but were pulled apart by a chain of events. Toby supposedly searches for Jessie through her parents after they are separated. Why, I asked myself didn’t he just google her? That no one in the village seemed tech savvy set me off. After all, the youngest character is occupied with listening to CDs and no one has a smart phone. Yeah, it’s a remote village but it’s England and in other stories by this author the characters of all ages usually embrace technology! But, I just discovered the book was originally published in 1999.
Amazing how 18 years can date a story.
I believe that is at least half of my problem with the book. The other half is the hyper critical mother-in-law of another storyline. The woman is antediluvian; I am older than this and had in-laws and parents from the depression. Most people of that period in the US embraced “mod cons” (modern conveniences). Sure my mother-in-law could be critical, but, she used a clothes dryer and dishwasher.
Maybe this is a question of the story being out of sync with today. In a period of rapidly advancing technology, a contemporary romance doesn’t seem too contemporary after 18 years. On the other hand, it does not exactly fit into the category of historical romance either.
As women’s fiction or chick lit, the story also feels dated. Is Lili’s doormat-ishness dated or is she just lazy in her love life because she is exhausted from being a nearly single parent? She does say her disconnect from her husband is due to the dichotomy of her life between when her husband is away and when he is home. I can feel that way as well as my husband is often away on business. But, I am glad when my husband comes home while Lili is wary and would prefer him to stay away.
This is sort of hard to understand, especially as she suspects infidelity and it is only made tolerable by his absence.
This is, perhaps, cultural? Is there more pressure in the UK to stay together or is this just this particular storyline’s thing?
I do have to give this older story high marks for looking at tolerance of diversity for different sexual orientations and for women who own their sexuality. Also, that another character and his family step up to welcome a new member. And Gemma Dawson is an awesome narrator with just the right voice for British chick-lit. She is good at the middle ground between acting and narrating, and of not overdoing the characters’ voices; they are inflected with just the right amount of personality.
The big question is whether, at the end of the story the HEAs are going to feel right or justified. Will the couples who come together after their own wariness succeed or fall apart. No one wants to think a couple isn’t going to last when we’ve invested time in listening to or reading a story. But, in this case, as they drive off into the sunset I didn’t believe the change of heart and mind that allows the character to overcome her lack of trust was justified. I felt she was bound to discover her trust was mislaid – it felt ambiguous.
In short, I don’t think this is Mansell’s best. Maybe knowing its original publication date – my bad – going in would have made it a better fit. Hard to say, but it is hard to overcome first-impressions and like something more when I didn’t warm up to it and, in the end, it didn’t leave me with the usual feel-good satisfaction of one of Mansell’s books.