The Road to Madison by Elle SpencerThe Road to Madison by Elle Spencer is an angsty, second chance romance with all the bells and whistles that I look for in a book.

Madison Prescott is the heir to her family’s banking dynasty. Growing up without a mother on a large estate was a lonely existence, until the day she met Ana Perez, the daughter of the new maid. Who would have suspected that the childhood best friends would grow up to be each other’s first love?

Madison’s controlling father has her future planned out down to the outfit she will wear when her official portrait is painted when she turns 40. The last thing he will tolerate is a gay daughter. A gay daughter married to the maid’s daughter running his company? Over his dead body.

By the time George Prescott III dies, it’s been 15 years since Madison and Ana’s future was destroyed by his cruel plotting. Madison has spent every minute waiting for his death so that she can go back and find her beloved Ana.

Unfortunately, some wounds don’t heal over time. Ana has never gotten over being tossed aside by Madison. She has spent her life striving to become just as respected and successful as any Prescott, but none of her achievements have put the pieces of her broken heart back together.

Madison and Ana once shared a love they thought would last forever. Will Madison finally be able to tell Ana the truth about what really separated them, and will Ana ever come to trust Madison again?   

The Characters

I love that I got to know Madison and Ana at various stages of their lives. As little girls, they share that magical ability to become best friends without the influences of race or economic status.  As naïve teens, they believe that love can conquer anything, including Madison’s vile father. In the present day, Madison and Ana are weighed down by years of resentment and grief. Watching them reconcile their pasts was wildly cathartic.

Madison has lived her life under the harsh judgement and restrictions set by her father. She is grounded and kind, despite the lack of love in her household. Even though her father devised a complex plan to keep Madison imprisoned in his vision for her future, Spencer keeps Madison from coming off as a victim by highlighting her selfless determination to protect Ana. While the optimistic teen we see in flashbacks seemed lost, Madison continued to surprise me with her strength and focus. One of my favorite scenes of all time is when Madison unleashes years of pent-up anger and frustration at the man that treated her as nothing more than a reflection of his own ego. I’ve never seen a protagonist in a traditional romance allowed to express her rage in such a controlled and powerful way. That scene deserves a standing ovation.

Ana is shy and cautious compared to her bold best friend Madison. When out of the blue, Madison deserts her, Ana is left bewildered. She is determined to rise above her pain. I appreciated how hard Ana worked to provide a future for herself and her mother. One of the many interesting things about Ana is her struggle between her head and her heart. There is never any doubt that Ana still loves Madison, but she is clearly confused. There have been so many lies over the years, every time Ana is around Madison or Madison’s name is mentioned I could almost hear the cogs in Ana’s head turning as she tried to figure out what is true and what is false. Forgiveness is a huge theme in this book. The adversity and loss that Ana has experienced seems insurmountable, so I had to keep my fingers crossed and trust that love (and the author) would be able to vanquish Ana’s doubts and fears.

The Writing Style

The story is told from both Madison’s and Ana’s points of view. I can’t imagine this book being told in the first person because each woman experiences such a dramatic character arc. I loved being in the front row while each navigated her internal journey. I have no doubt that I could be heard talking to each of them with my Kindle in one hand and a latte in the other.

Spencer does some very interesting work on the physicality of their relationship as children and how it changes as they mature. The same is true in how the women’s speech patterns develop over the span of 25 years. I liked the attention to all these little details.

Spencer seamlessly employs flashbacks, and in each case, she takes the reader back to a point in Madison and Ana’s history that is significant in shedding light on what is motivating their actions in the present day. In every instance, it felt like I was getting a new piece of a puzzle that helped me understand the roadblocks they needed to overcome to get to a place of forgiveness and mutual trust. Believe me, they have a lot of emotional wounds to heal and at times I wondered if it was simply too much.

The Narration

Lori Prince’s narration makes this story sparkle and shine. I have no doubt that if I had just read the book I would have loved it, but the audiobook elevates the story in such a way that it will probably be one of my favorites of the year.

Her interpretation of Madison and Ana as children and teenagers is remarkably authentic. When we are with them in present day, there is a nuanced distinction in their voicing that did more than differentiate their characters. The variations in timbre and pitch served to enhance their particular personalities and backgrounds.

Prince does a good job with the male characters. Most importantly she makes Madison’s father sound as despicable as he is written.

The Pros

I love romances that include children, but I don’t like it when the children feel like they are only there as plot devices. The beauty of The Road to Madison is that I got two adorable little girls with fully fleshed out personalities; they just happen to be the main characters. They are precious, and they feel like children rather than adults in tiny bodies.

The Cons

I know, I know, I sound like a broken record. I would have liked a steamier love scene toward the end of the book. Despite the history and chemistry between Madison and Ana, I thought the love scene fizzled rather than sizzled.

victorias favourite booksThe Conclusion

I love this audiobook! Was that clear enough? The story had me hooked from its powerful opening scene, and it only got better and better. I feel like Spencer tailored this book just for me. For anyone who has read my reviews, it’s no secret that I love romances that include lots of angst and The Road to Madison hit the bullseye. This story gave me so many feels, too. There are moments of utter sweetness juxtaposed with instances of raw pain. For me, there is nothing so satisfying as a book that makes me cry, and I was reaching for a box of tissues more than a few times. (No worries, there were just as many tears of joy as tears of sorrow.) There are also several twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. Watching Madison and Ana go from delightful little girls, to naive young women, and finally to complex, mature adults was oh so satisfying. Get this audiobook now, so we can have a nice, long chit chat about it over coffee.

Excerpt from The Road to Madison by Elle Spencer

Madison’s throat constricted. Eyes that had been dry since her father’s death filled with tears. She turned around and tried to find her voice. “Thank you for coming.”

Ana turned her attention to the hole in the ground. “I’m not here for you. I’m here for me. I had to see it for myself.”

Madison could barely speak, but Ana’s voice was forceful, her tone cold. The words cut to the core. She knew she had to accept them. How could she not, after all that had happened? Besides, there was no time to ask for forgiveness. Willard would be back soon.

Madison grabbed a shovel. With the pointed toe of her black, stiletto heel, she pushed deep into the dirt pile and threw the biggest shovelful she could manage. It hit George Prescott’s casket with a loud thump. She paused for a moment. Her lip quivered so hard, she had to cover it with her hand.

This was supposed to be easy. Just bury the son of a bitch, wipe your hands clean, and move on with life. Madison wanted to see Ana again, but not like this. Not now. Not here. Madison choked back a sob and filled the shovel again, trying to ignore the scent of Ana’s perfume lingering in the air.

Ana stepped up to the grave. She peered down at the casket and then met Madison’s gaze. “May I join you?”

Madison gave a nod, not sure exactly what Ana had in mind. It didn’t matter because at least Ana had looked her in the eye when she’d said the words. That was something, wasn’t it?

Ana removed her coat. Apparently, she hadn’t bothered to wear black. In fact, she looked as if she’d just come from work in a gray pencil skirt and white silk blouse. She grabbed another shovel, dug into the pile, and without hesitation, threw it on the casket.

Were they really going to do this together, or was it just a symbolic thing? Would one shovelful be enough? Madison watched in shock as Ana filled her shovel again. No, one shovelful was definitely not enough. Madison dug deep into the pile again, and without words, the two impeccably dressed women threw shovel after shovelful of dirt on top of George Madison Prescott III.

With most of the dirt pile gone, Madison threw the shovel to the side and wiped her sweaty brow. It was done. And if anyone ever reported what she’d just done, burying her father herself instead of letting someone else do it, she had an excuse ready. It was her job, as his only child, to give him the final respect he so deserved, she’d tell them. Sure, she doubted anyone would believe her excuse—that she just couldn’t bear to let a stranger do it, but she also doubted anyone would care enough to question it.

After they finished the task, Ana turned and started to walk away. Madison caught her sleeve, leaving a dirty handprint on the silk. “Could you stay a minute longer?”

Ana seemed to stiffen at the touch. She put her coat over her arm and held her chin high. “No. I got what I came here for.”

There was that cold tone again. Madison had never heard it before today. She wiped her cheek with the back of her dirty hand. She couldn’t stop the flow of tears she’d managed to keep at bay since the doctor gave the final nod, indicating her father had taken his last breath. Now, the tears flowed freely. If she could just stop crying, maybe she could tell Ana how sorry she was. How her only respite in fifteen years had been the few minutes she allowed herself in the shower each morning to imagine that things had turned out differently. If only she could explain. But those words were stuck behind the gigantic lump in her throat.

She was trying to think of a way to keep Ana there a little longer when the unthinkable happened. Ana turned back to the grave, stepped forward, and spat on it. When she turned back around, their eyes met for a few seconds. Ana’s were so full of anger and hate, Madison had to turn away. She waited until she heard a car door open and close before she turned back around. Ana was gone.

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Bits and Bobs

  • ISBN number: 9781635554212
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
  • Audiobook Publisher: Bold Strokes Books Inc
  • Narrator: Lori Prince
  • Elle Spencer Online

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