Valerie by Kit Eyre starts on a dark, wet English night when cab driver Max rescues a woman, Valerie, stranded in the middle of nowhere with a flat tyre. Valerie is a prospective Member of Parliament and has been travelling throughout the area to gain support. She is on her way home after a late meeting.
Since Max is on her way to hospital, to support two friends, Valerie agrees to go to with her giving the two women more time together. The chemistry is there, but Max is conscious of her social status relative to Valerie, and does not want any romance in her life. So she shuts Valerie down when she tries to make a date. But Valerie is not giving up.
This is an angsty, contemporary romance between two very different women. It is a well observed drama detailing the problems that can occur between people if they feel that they have to act as expected by their family, or their position in society. These problems are exacerbated by failing to communicate. The story is cleverly done, by picking up on these elements, and replaying them between the leading ladies, and between the other characters in the story.
There are a number of well described characters and they are one of the hidden gems of this story. Their interaction, or non-communication will have you wanting to shake them, slap them or shout at them.
Valerie is a widow; beautiful, confident and wealthy. We find that she is often outspoken and not frightened of getting what she wants. She owns a large house and it is her actions which drive the story forward. Valerie has decided that her career will be everything she needs but when she meets Max she realises that she wants her as well. As Valerie progresses in politics, she finds that she has to change her position on a number of issues, both personal and social. She decides to compromise on many of her views, and her way of dealing with everything creates waves with her friends and family. I was shaking, slapping and shouting at this point!
Valerie’s daughter Amy, lives with her mother at weekends and her grandmother in the week. Her relationship with Valerie is strained and Amy feels unloved by her mother. Her grandmother is a homophobic snob, and is not frightened of being a harsh matriarchal figure. She has definite expectations of Amy’s career and marriage. Amy has a difficult personal journey and as we get to know her we discover that she is dealing with secrets of her own.
Max is the part-owner of a cab company. But with no formal qualifications she feels less than Valerie. She removed herself from her family as she felt she could not meet their expectations for her career and marriage. Max is gallant, loving and caring – and to be frank, a little bit of a doormat. Her best friend Drew, co-owner of the cab company, is the character I wanted to shout at the most. He is a slob who deals with emotions badly under the guise of ‘just being a man’.
The Writing Style
Valerie is a drama. The revelations and actions by the main characters keep the drama going from start to finish. I would describe the style as realism, in that there is little hearts and flowers romance. Each of the characters, at some point, does something that is likely in real life but is probably not what you would expect. For me, the whole book reads like a TV drama.
The fact that it isn’t a light romance sells it to me.
I have already highlighted the characterisations as being a real strength of the story. In addition, some of the descriptions are so well done. For example, the taxi cab office with “tea and biscuits on tap, maybe down the side of the sofa”.
It has angst and pathos and you will find yourself trying to work out why the characters make the decisions they have, long after you have put the book down.
I have none. There are a few punctuation errors in the book, but I received a pre-print copy and assume they were corrected prior to publication.
Heads up that, Valerie is bisexual, and it is obvious she has sex with a man at one point. It is not described at all.
Yes, there is a romantic element to this story, but it is so much more than that. It is a well observed slice of life, between a family and their friends.
It demonstrates how events in life repeat themselves to different generations and to different strata of society.
It shows how secrets, and not talking to each other, can affect everyone surrounding those keeping the secrets.
If you like a little meat on your romantic bones, then this story is for you.
Excerpt from Valerie by Kit Eyre
More pressure and the handle groaned and gave way. Instead of twisting the nut around, she’d crushed it in on itself. She jumped up and kicked the tyre then scrubbed her face with her arm. Before the pain faded from her toes, she booted it again and again.
A hand on her bicep worked like a tranquiliser dart. She stopped with her foot aloft and lowered it to the ground, tasting that perfume again in the rain. She let the hand steer her into the rear seat of the BMW, squinting against the dazzling ceiling lights.
‘The car . . .’
‘Is due for a valet,’ Valerie answered as she slipped in beside her. ‘I’m so annoyed with it right this minute, it might end up in the crusher.’
Max tried to smile, but her face wouldn’t stretch that way. ‘Some white knight I am. Usually, I could change a tyre with my eyes closed.’
‘So, what’s different?’
She shrugged and water drizzled between her shoulder blades.
‘You’re a taxi driver,’ continued Valerie. ‘Were you out on a fare at this time of night?’
‘No.’ Max sniffed then cleared the rain from her throat.
‘You a customer? Feel like I recognise you.’
‘Not to my knowledge. You might’ve seen me in the paper or something. I’m standing for election next year.’
‘Really? That’s . . . way above my head.’
‘I don’t believe that.’ Valerie stretched slender fingers onto her wrist, warm despite the weather.
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Note: I received a free review copy of Valerie by Kit Eyre. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.