Monday, 3 February 2014

Book Review: One Night at the Jacaranda by Carol Cooper





I don't tend to read many romance novels but when Carol Cooper asked if I would like to review her debut novel the interesting premise immediately tempted me.
It follows several characters who meet at a speed dating night - the eponymous One Night at the Jacaranda - and each chapter switches between them, offering their own individual take on proceedings. Among the characters are Sanjay, a young man facing the end of his life following a terminal testicular cancer diagnosis, Karen, a single mum to four children, Dan, newly released from prison, Geoff, a divorced GP who desperately misses his young son, Laure, a lawyer pretending to be a hairdresser and Harriet, a journalist who is there for the byline, not the romance. They briefly meet, chat, flirt, ask questions, tell lies, tick boxes and make decisions about who they want to see again.
Most of the book though is about what happens after that night. There's love, sex, children, illness, death, deceit, loneliness, fear, anger, grief and laughter. It's not really a romance, rather a look at each of the characters' lives during the few months featured in the book and all the more interesting for it. The main characters are a varied bunch but on the whole likeable despite their flaws. The secondary characters are perhaps a little less well fleshed out but as they are mostly on the periphery of the story this is only a small gripe. Carol Cooper is a doctor and uses that experience both in the believable and sensitive medical scenes and in her empathetic observations of how people behave.
This is a well plotted story, there are lighthearted moments but it has a darker edge than many romantic novels. If you're looking for something that is more than the predictable boy meets girl this Valentine's Day you may well want to check out One Night at the Jacaranda yourself.

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