(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)Published by William Morrow on April 24, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Dating & Relationships, Emotions & Feelings, Love & Romance, Romance
Set amidst the breathtaking beauty of Oxford, this sparkling debut novel tells the unforgettable story about a determined young woman eager to make her mark in the world and the handsome man who introduces her to an incredible love that will irrevocably alter her future—perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.
American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day.
When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret.
Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for.
My Oxford Year wasn’t quite what I was expecting … not in a bad way. I promise that this sentence will make more sense as you read.
When I looked at the cover I was expecting a fluffy coming of age romance with a bit of drama. And essentially that’s what it is, but it is also something of an emotional rollercoaster of a read. Obviously the summary kind of gives you some clue as to the drama about to unfold, but apparently I missed the clues going in, so when the “big thing” is revealed I was a little … surprised? I think that’s the best word to use.
I’m a fan of Julia Whelan’s narration on my audible titles and when this book hit my radar I was immediately intrigued by the idea that she also writes books so I got a copy in my hands as quick as possible. Plus the idea of this story set in England at Oxford was a bonus! Ella Durran has known since she was 13 that she was going to be at Oxford someday, and receiving a Rhodes Scholar is the way she makes that happen. She will enjoy this once in a lifetime opportunity, then she will turn around and go home and become the sweetheart of politics as she’s been planning for years. As she arrives in London, she’s presented with the opportunity to work on a rising star’s political campaign – her solution – she’ll attend Oxford and work the campaign from across the pond and when she goes home in June she’ll have a job waiting for her., but honestly that whole part of the story felt kind of out of place for me. I get it.. it gave her a reason to have to go home when her Rhodes is up, but it just felt like a mash-up of reasons why she ultimately was going to leave instead of a part of the actual story.
I liked Ella… I did. There were a few things about her personality that grated on me, but overall she’s a completely relatable character if a little.. bland. I kind of wanted to know her better and I think that is probably the one complaint I have about her specifically, I just wanted to get to know her more, which you would think the story is told from her POV would help with. Some pretty major revelations are touched on throughout, but then quickly relegated to a minor blip in the story and really didn’t allow me to get that much-needed information I like in order to ‘bond’ with a character..
I get the why of it throughout the first part of the story … the relationship that she embarks on with Jamie is supposed to be just a ‘friends with benefits’ type of thing – completely surface, so there’s little revealed amongst each other, but Ella didn’t really share any of her background with her newfound friends either, so how are we meant to get to know her? Plus Jamie and Ella aren’t going to get attached because there is no future, but that really makes it hard to become invested in their lives too, both together and apart. Whelan kind of breezes past 6 weeks of a ‘relationship’ where they are unwittingly falling for each other, and we don’t get to see or experience any of it other than the few interactions in the early stages and we’re just supposed to accept that the bond they have formed is deeper than either intended.
I liked Jamie… I did. (this sounds familiar) He totally comes across as this carefree guy who doesn’t have a care in the world when we first meet him and I kind of loved the first interactions he had with Ella. But then these things start happening and I started feeling another way about him… okay I was angry because WHY IS HE LYING ALL THE LIES?? Then I felt guilty when I found out why he was lying and then I was mad at Ella for being mad and it wasn’t pretty because then she did a thing and I was like WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU… I was confused about how I was supposed to feel. Obviously, Jamie has his reasons, but I felt that through the rest of the book he’s constantly making decisions based on how it will affect Ella rather than how it will effect him, and if ever there is a time to be selfish, it’s when your life is on the line. So that all kind of made me mad, plus there is this huge drama with Jamie’s father that really doesn’t make sense until a certain part of the story, and I’m sorry to say it, but I’m on his side I think!
Honestly, I was kind of emotionally spent when the big “life-changing” secret that Jamie had is revealed and you still have about 1/3 of the book left. So while the first part was lots of light-hearted making friends, having uncomplicated sex, drinking in pubs and just all around fun, the last part of this book really drags you down from that, and it’s such a huge change in tone from the first part that it kind of affected the rest of the read for me.
I’m not saying that that is entirely a bad thing, but it was just not what I was expecting when I started and so I was caught off guard by all these feelings I suddenly was having.
One of the things I absolutely loved was Whelan’s knowledge of England and Oxford and that showed in all her descriptions. I felt like I was experiencing it for the first time right alongside Ella. I love books set in England, I vicariously live through characters who get to travel internationally so that was a huge bonus in reading this.
I also thought the way that Whelan wrapped up the story was wonderfully done. Without giving anything away it was a nice way to end it and leave it up for reader interpretation and imagination to determine what came next for both Ella and Jamie.
Fans of Jo Jo Moyes will definitely enjoy this one, and if you don’t mind a little heartbreak and sadness with your Women’s Fiction (and who doesn’t really?) Definitely get this one in your hands and give it a go!