E for England

E for England
by Elisabeth Rose
Published by Escape – Harlequin Australia
231 pages
Genre: chick lit
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3.5 / 5

Annie’s husband left her and their two young children nearly a year ago, leaving behind only a note saying he needed to find himself. He has sent a few postcards, but no money, relegating Annie to moving in with a frisky coworker. She had to give up her plans for an MBA as she struggles to provide for her children.

Yes, life looks a bit challenging for her. The last thing she has any interest in is dating, so of course she meets Hugh, a handsome doctor living in the same apartment building. The two are attracted to each other, but Hugh refuses to have children and Annie refuses to make hers anything less than all of her top ten priorities.

The challenge for these two is to overcome their resistance. Hugh has his reasons for not wanting children, even as we – and Annie – can see that he’s mistaken. Annie, meanwhile, convinces herself that dating Hugh would be a huge mistake. She needs to focus on her children, not a man, and besides. He doesn’t want kids, and she has two.

Then there is the ex-husband, who isn’t quite an ex-husband just yet. What if he were to show back up in their lives? And where on earth is he?

This is a cute romance, but one tinged with sadness and melancholy. Hugh is well acquainted with love and loss, with life and death, both personally and professionally. We understand why he’s reluctant to be a father, both because of what he experienced in the past and because he encounters death and blame frequently in his job. He needs an orderly, quiet life, not one disturbed by rambunctious children.

Annie’s marriage is also cause for a twinges of sadness. We do learn why her husband left, which makes us feel for her and her children (and even the husband) ever stronger. As much as we want Annie happy, and as much as we think she could be with Hugh, we know that happiness for her will be hard fought. Does she even have time for such a fight?

This story is presented fairly realistically, and the characters are people we relate to, largely because they know, as well as we do, that nothing magically happens in life. Sometimes the pacing feels off, though, and the ending seems a bit too neat considering the messiness that preceded it.

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