Disclaimer: I know the author of this book. She did not solicit this review or my purchase of the book. I brought my copy because (1) her telling of auditioning narrators for the audio book was hilarious (2) she made me feel welcome and (3) for every author that is a douche, there are at least ten who aren’t and who deserve a readership. The only way to find those is to read.
The disclaimer doesn’t cover everything, however. This book is classified as New Adult (which for the longest time I confused with New Age), and I have been quasi avoiding books in the genre because several people whose opinions I respect really have posted some rather strong reviews about the genre. I can say that I would not have brought this book if I hadn’t heard Xio Axelrod tell the audition story (and honestly, get her to tell this story if you meet her). Largely most of the reviews I have seen about New Adult seem to involve a bad boy who should be gelded, and who is based on Twilight stalkers.
Thankfully, this is not the case with The Calum.
Lovie goes along to Scotland with her friend Jo, for Jo wants to find the living embodiment of the Calum, a hero from a romance book. (Yes, I was thinking Outlander too, and we all know how many women would want Jamie, but you know what, I like modern plumbing and voting against racist assholes). Once there (bonus point for setting the story somewhere other than Edinburgh), Jo meets the Calum (who name is Hamish because there is a rule about setting a story in Scotland and having a character with the name of Hamish or Angus). This leaves Lovie on her own, but that is fine because Lovie has meet a good shot of slow burn Scotch by the name of Duff, who is close friends with Hamish.
The plot enfolds pretty much the way you would think a romance plot should, and let’s be honest, when you read a romance, you pretty much know the standard plot. What makes a good novel, therefore, are pretty basic – writing, how twists are handled, and characterization.
Xio Axelrod does pretty damn well with all of these.
The novel’s weakest point for me (and this is relative) is that the sense of place could have been stronger. While, you never lose the sense that you are in Scotland, there a few times when the reader is told of the beauty but never really shown the beauty in the terms of the description.
However, this lack is more than made up with the characters, foremost being the characters of Lovie and Jo. There is a tendency in books with women leads to have the lead be the most adult, most responsible woman in the novel. The end result of this is that the female lead comes across as a right bitch or a long suffering martyr most of the time. Xio Axelrod avoids falling into this trap, and there is a brilliant sequence when you are showed exactly why Lovie and Jo are friends. Jo is simply not an airhead blonde. It was my favorite part of the book.
Well, maybe one of them because I also really loved the portrayal of women going for what they want and not feeling guilt for it.
Lovie, too, is a wonderful character. Smart and pretty, but not super skinny. She has her issues, but has enough self awareness that she does grow as a character. The romance she develops with Duff is just as believable as she is, making it a romance that reader wants to work as opposed to one that the reader simply knows is going to work. And one of my favorite scenes involves Lovie, her hair, and Duff’s grandma.
And Duff – a romantic hero who is not doing anything illegal, who has problems that are oh so human, and who thankfully, acts like a man who deserves the woman. He may not be wearing a kilt, but wow.
You have no idea how nice it was not to read a romance book where I didn’t feel an urge to arrest the romantic lead.
And the writing – the writing is hot!
So when are the sequels coming out?
As a last word, after reading this book, I brought a copy for a friend. That is how much I liked it.