Book Review: On Dublin Street

I would say it was nice to meet you, but I was naked so… it wasn’t.

On Dublin Street, Sam Young

I have been a fan of Samantha Young’s work for a few years now. I started with one of her Young Adults, Lunarmorte, and went on from there. This book I am reviewing today is the first Adult novel she has attempted, and I have to say, she’s done a wonderful job of marrying the intrigue of her Young Adult novels with the maturity of an adult book.

Synopsis:

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 attachments. 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 realizes that Braden won’t be satisfied with just mind-blowing passion. The stubborn Scotsman is intent on truly knowing her… down to the very soul.

Joss is a very frustrating character at times. Because her back story comes in pieces, including her parents’ deaths, which is the lynchpin to all her sadness, and the ensuing tragedies that drive her out of America and towards Scotland with a purpose. Despite all the sadness, Joss is also quite funny – she rolls with the punches, can be cutting and sassy and she flirts with her bar tending coworkers in a way that makes her fun to read.

Braden is a dominant sex pot. He likes to be in charge, he likes to care for people – he has a back story too. His includes both mommy and daddy issues, but suffice it to say (without spoilers) that he is an extremely well adjusted landowner and real estate developer with a penchant for easy, quick relationships that drive his poor younger half sister a mite crazy.

If you read the quote I began this article with – you know how Joss and Braden meet. It is equal parts hilarious and mortifying. But it gets funnier as the story progresses.

There are a range of characters that are also within this story that push and prod our heroes into flying into each other’s arms: Ellie, Braden’s younger half sister and Joss’ roommate, who is probably one of the nicest people on the planet; Adam, Braden’s bestie and Ellie’s romantic white whale, who seems oddly possessive of her, even though he claims she is just a friend; James and Rhian – Joss’ former flatmates who got engaged and moved to London (more on the later); and a few kids, parents, bar tending coworkers and a veritable lineup of tall, thin blondes who want Braden solely for the cash in his bank account.

Seems like a typical romantic plot: Broken girl meets more well adjusted broken guy, they love each other, but even though everyone wants this and they know they do to, they put off being together until the final chapters – or more likely – the epilogue.

Not so with this book.

And this is your warning – MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!!

See … Joss and Braden, they give into their own sexy time pretty soon – how could you now, when Braden says things like:

Do you know what it’s been like for me since that day in the flat? Sitting across from you in bars, at dinner, knowing that underneath all the attitude is every man’s fucking fantasy?

On Dublin Street, Sam Young

Or …

Babe, nice lingerie is for seducing a man. I’m already fucking seduced.

On Dublin Street, Sam Young

And the thing is, they do a little agreement – three month relationship, no string beyond the three months, but during the three months they are exclusive bed mates and they go to parties together.

Seems straight forward, but of course, it’s not. From the first morning, Joss pushes Braden out of bed and runs away countless times. It’s both frustrating and refreshing to not have a heroine fall to pieces every other page and be picked back up by her beau. Joss is realistic – she had real loss, feels it everyday, but little by little, she begins to live again, separate from the “life” she made for herself in Uni where her and Rhian – also with a tragic past – fed off each other’s silences and simmering anger, keeping all of it shrouding their bodies and minds, like armour.

For her part, she’s very brave. She puts herself out in the world, interacts normally and has goals she works towards – in this case, becoming a writer. But Joss is ultimately held back by suffocating panic attacks due to her unresolved issues regarding her family. When she finally begins to confront those demons with a therapist, she begins to understand the limitations she put on herself because of all those issues, and those sessions become a thought provoking part of the book, where Joss is stripped down (not in that way, you dirty minds!) for us and we get to see the angry, scared person she is – with all her defenses slowly crumbling around her.

The trajectory of the novel is steady for about 3/4 of the way, and then the whole world of the novel explodes and that’s where the nitty gritty really begins – and that last quarter of the novel are probably the most frustrating and the most exciting. Your heart will break, mend itself and then break again within pages, and you will fall in love with Joss & Braden over and over.

This first attempt at an adult novel by Sam Young was brilliant – I came to it late, not finding in my local Indigo until Christmas – but I am so glad I picked it up. There’s a fevered honesty to Joss’ confessions, and it comes through her actions more so than her inner monologues – the way she ducks out of events and social gatherings and how she attempts to avoid all intimacy, stand out as traits she has cultivated over years.  There is no doubt in your mind that she is broken. But she is never miraculously cured – she works at it, page by page, until she can begin to open up her heart, deal with her situation, and do what she can to live fuller. But she is never not broken – and in this, Young has managed to make a relate-able character – a heroine you think you know, a heroine you could even be.

So, my recommendation is to read this book – it’s fresh, it’s tragic and it lifts you up. I read it as we were driving through the Appalachians, the sun setting behind us (I had one chapter to go when it became too dark to read – I finished it in Cape Anne) and I was hooked – I read the entire thing from the Ontario Border to Massachusetts. It was brilliant to pass the time – I apparently got so into it that there were tears in my eyes and my facial expression kept mimicking the characters. True story, according to the Boy.

I highly recommend it – go pick it up! The second of the trilogy, Down London Road, and a novella, An On Dublin Street Christmas, are already out – and I intend on grabbing them the next time I run into Indigo with a giftcard (my family knows me so well …).

Until you get your own copy, I leave you with something to tide you over:

I know you love me, Jocelyn, because there’s no fucking way I can be this much                                                     in love with you, and not have you feel the same way. It’s not possible.

On Dublin Street, Sam Young

Cheers!

AmmyB

Next Review: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

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