Wednesday, November 9, 2016

'Can't Help Falling' by Kara Isaac


A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England.

Emelia Mason has spent her career finding the dirt on the rich and famous. But deep down past this fearless tabloid-reporter fa├žade, there’s a nerdy Narnia-obsessed girl who still can’t resist climbing into wardrobes to check for the magical land on the other side. When a story she writes produces tragic results, she flees to Oxford, England—home to C.S. Lewis—to try and make amends for the damage she has caused.

Peter Carlisle was on his way to become one of Great Britain’s best rowers—until he injured his shoulder and lost his chance at glory. He’s determined to fight his way back to the top even if it means risking permanent disability to do so. It’s the only way he can find his way past failing the one person who never stopped believing in his Olympic dream.

When Peter and Emelia cross paths on her first night in Oxford, the attraction is instant and they find common ground in their shared love of Narnia. But can the lessons from a fantasyland be enough to hold them together when secrets of the real world threaten to tear them apart? Cobblestone streets, an aristocratic estate, and an antique shop with curious a wardrobe bring the world of Narnia to life in Kara Isaac’s inspiring and romantic story about second chances.

Genre: Contemporary romance, Christian fiction

This novel is a tribute to C.S. Lewis as well as a romance, since the main couple first connect over their mutual love of the Narnia Chronicles. Whenever Emelia sees an ornate, antique wardrobe, she steps inside to test the back, just in case. It's a bit of a childhood tradition. And Peter catches her doing this not once but twice. Their relationship is based on a series of coincidences, but the magical, historical setting invites us to suspend disbelief.

I liked the Oxford setting, because I visited there once, many years ago, and it brings back memories. This book features University culture, antique shops and the rowing team, who have their sights set not only on beating Cambridge but aiming for the Olympics.

Peter's situation evokes a lot of sympathy, since we've all felt hard-done-by at one time or another. Not only is his dream crumbling because of a painful injury, but he has to see his undeserving brother Victor achieve in the same arena (and rub it in too!) It's interesting to see Peter always trying to force the right responses while feeling something completely different in his heart. Victor, who always behaves so badly, seems so blessed. You can't help wondering whether good things are coming for Peter.

The story makes it clear Emelia has a secret reason for upending the life she knows to travel to a different country to apply for a specific job. It's based on remorse and a longing to make amends. This may sound heavy, but Kara Isaac's tone keeps the story lighthearted. She uses a lot of funny similes and comparisons which become part of her writing style. (Such as "She avoided relationships like someone with a peanut allergy avoided a Snickers bar." That's a prime example without being plot-spoilerish.)

Altogether, I can think of several people who enjoy watching rom-coms or reading contemporary romance novels who would surely enjoy this book.

Thanks to Howard Books and NetGalley for my review copy.

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