Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Review: Welcome to My World - Miranda Dickinson

A travel agent who longs to travel. An intrepid explorer who just wants to find a place to call home. And a Big Idea that changes everything!. Close your eyes and imagine the world is your oyster! And now imagine never seeing it. Welcome to Harriet Langton's world. All her life she's dreamt of travelling the globe - fate always got in the way. Working as a travel agent, the closest Harri comes to her dream destination of Venice is booking the trip for someone else. But everything changes when travel fanatic Alex drops in. With her boyfriend Rob tied up with work, Harri is persuaded to help Alex in his quest for love. But in her attempts to help, Harri soon discovers that she's alienating those around her. Desperate to leave her life behind, will her dreams finally come true? Or will Harri's leap of faith be her biggest mistake yet?

I picked up Welcome to my World for twenty pence from my local library from the withdrawn pile. Reading the back I was excited to go home home, soak in a bath and read this delightful bit of fluff while I relaxed. This is not, exactly, how it turned out...

WARNING - Rant ahead!

This book annoyed me. A lot. Don't get me wrong it is a delightful bit of fluff just as it was billed and just as I'd hoped. However, some of the characters and plot devices grated on me just a little. Maybe I was being a bit fussy that day, or maybe not - you decide.

Harriet Langton is a travel agent who's always wanted to travel and yet never has. She's a fairly likeable and standard character, dissatisfied with life and work and yearning for a change. However, Harriet’s intense desire to travel and yet constant excuses not to do so started to get quite annoying by half way through the novel. In addition, the barriers that are thrown up by Dickinson to explain why Harriet has never left the country seem quite arbitrary and seem easily surmountable.

I found the usual cast of characters that are meant to support Harriet overwhelmingly selfish or woefully underdeveloped. The obligatory best friend seems to be on a never-ending quest for Mr. Right to the point where she completely ignores her friend. I got so frustrated with the relationship between Harriet and Stella (is it just me who'd take my best friend who's always wanted to go on holiday, on holiday?). Moreover, the climax of Stella's storyline, while explained and rationalised somewhat by Harriet's inner dialogue, results in a complete overreaction that makes me question their friendship entirely. One of the main threads of most romance novels is a close friendship and to me it's one of the most important and on this front Welcome to My World falls woefully short.

Alex, our hero is suitably likeable and exotic for a romance lead. However, Dickinson concentrates so much on his travels and experiences, which he relates to Harriet throughout the book, that he never really develops as a character. The plot device used to induce tension between our characters is fairly standard and inoffensive, although it is resolved remarkably quickly and seems quite pointless in the end. The resulting situation where Harriet sets up Alex with Chelsea, who she sees as a nightmare date, also seems a bit weird. From the little we know of Alex and Chelsea it seems unlikely that they would form a functioning couple and yet this is what we are supposed to believe with little effort put in by Dickinson.

Finally, the book is scattered with a considerable amount of dialogue that doesn't seem to do much to help the plot along, unless it is meant to inject some lighthearted humour, which I admit it did occasionally do. Harriet's story did keep me interested until the end, starting the novel off with Harriet hiding in a toilet cubicle the book works backwards to explain how she ended up in her current predicament and keeps you wondering about the plot's crescendo until the very last. Dickinson's writing style is different enough to be refreshing, although probably not for me, the occasional line that was written like a stage direction jumped out at me and pulled me out of the story completely. While I understood Dickinson’s intent and could easily see where she wanted her story to go, I don’t think it was executed well enough and there was too much emphasis placed on the ends and not the means which overall left it feeling quite disjointed and mostly superfluous. 

I honestly don't mean to be too critical of Welcome to My World. Dickinson has crafted an enjoyable lighthearted read, which is what the book it is meant to be, and it did keep me interested enough to finish. I think the novel would be a perfect read for a holiday when you just want something diverting for an occasional hour or two. However, if you are looking for anything more I think you'll find Welcome to My World lacking. If I'm wrong, do let me know in the comments; I can't wait to hear your opinions.

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