REVIEW: Crossed Wires by Rosy Thornton
Dear Ms. Thornton,
I’m not quite sure how to classify this book. It has a romance in it but when a couple doesn’t meet face to face until two-thirds of the way through the story, and then only for a few hours, it makes me debate whether or not to call the book a romance. But, regardless of that, it’s a book I enjoyed reading for a number of reasons.
Peter and Mina first “meet” when Peter calls in a car insurance claim after swerving to avoid his neighbor’s cat. It could have been worse, you see, but since his neighbor had just recently cut down the tree and all Peter hit was the stump the claim shouldn’t be bad. Should it?
Mina is amused at this almost hesitant Cambridge professor’s way of reporting the accident and his gentle, wry sense of humor. When he calls in the second accident, which occurs when he’s playing charades with his twin daughters while driving, he remembers Mina’s name and specifically asks for her, which is against all call center policy. It’s then that Mina takes it upon herself to check into his policy at bit and calls him at home about his claim.
And thus begins their weekly series of Sunday evening calls to each other wherein they catch up on each other’s day to day events and families. In between, we get to watch their ordinary, every day lives and see a slice of modern England.
Whether or not readers “take” to this book will depend on whether or not they’re willing to wait out the gradual “getting to know you” before the possibility of a romance develops or if they’re interested in Mina and Peter’s families, Sheffield and Cambridge style. I adored it but can see that it’s probably not for everyone.
Mina is a single parent, struggling with a daughter, Sal, who never takes her nose out of a book and a much younger sister, Jess, who is rebelling against their mother. Peter, a widower for four years, has twin daughters. The book begins with Cassie and Kim still sharing everything in life, which worries Peter, until they begin to show signs of dawning independence, which worries him more.
And through it all, we see modern English life. The council house Mina lives in in Sheffield and the country cottage Peter owns in the Cambridge fens. Mina’s struggle to reconcile her sister and mother and Peter’s efforts to help his grad student, Trish, work on her PhD thesis. The worry Mina has that Sal isn’t as social as the other girls in her class and prejudice that faces the travelers – aka gypsies – who Peter’s daughters befriend in school.
I had a wonderful time watching for little Britishisms to add to my store of knowledge gleaned over years of reading Chick Lit books. IPA and Evo-Sticks, Toad in the Hole and tips, HMV and “Just William.” I hate it when books are sanitized for American consumption, as if we can’t be bothered to look up phrases, things and words from other countries and cultures. I also enjoyed watching Peter’s excursions to the local pub and Mina’s tea time meals with her Mum as well as the Guy Fawkes celebrations and the complicated logistics involved in a simple school field trip.
The story ends with Peter and Mina edging towards exploring the connection they’ve felt between them for quite some time which, I feel, is the way to go with the romance. It’s not a HEA, at least not yet but is a potential one, nonetheless. Thanks for sending it to us for review. B+
I suppose it would be clear from the context, but I’m curious because I’m from the UK, but I have no idea what IPA stands for. I Googled “Evo-Sticks” and it seems to have something to do with DIY but it seems to be a brand name rather than a name which describes any one product (unlike pritt stick). Were the “tips” referring to advice, or to the money you give waiters in restaurants, or to something else? And if you don’t call them “tips” in the US, what do you call them?
IPA – India Pale Ale – a friend told me this was developed during WWII for British soldiers in India and brought back by them.
Evo-stick – yep, it’s a brand name but I don’t know so many English brand names and still had to look this up to see what it is.
tip – trash, dust bin.
I’ve never heard of India Pale Ale, but I don’t know much about alcohol in general, so that could be why.
A “tip” in that sense is much, much larger than a dust bin. I tend to think of it as referring to something this size or this size.
Did it say that in the book about the call center policy? Because I’m kind of curious as I work in an insurance call center here in the States and customers can ask for a particular representative, especially if that rep is handling something for them.
I love reading British books that have all the British styling and phrasing in them. I learn a lot of new things and get a great picture of another culture and way of life.
IPA is not really a British thing so much as a hipster or beer connoisseur thing.
This book looks interesting. I prefer slow, get-to-know you romances to the two-day-frak-and-fall-in-love varieties. Makes me wonder why I even bother with most romances. I suppose it’s that funny feeling in my stomach when they kiss.
And I love the cover too. Sort of retro and fun. Thanks for the review!
Yep, it specifically said that it was the policy of her call center. Later someone else needs to speak with her and has to keep calling and calling until Mina answers the line.
LOL, Laura. We’d call that a landfill.
This sounds sweet and fun. I think I’ll give it a shot.
I’ve run into the IPA thing in a British mystery but I can’t remember which one right now. May have been a British television production.
This sounds like a book I would enjoy a lot. And what an adorable cover — those heart-shaped rings in the tree stump are v. sweet.
This sounds exactly like the kind of book I love. A slow exploration into people’s lives and feelings without endless pages of characters sitting around thinking how much they want to boink each other. Going to add this to my shopping cart right now!
Thanks for the review.
(btw: has anyone reviewed Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen? Another gently written, slowly unfolding, gorgeous romance.)
Can’t quite see why Mina would have been afforded a council house when she isn’t on the dole and likely earns a good bit of dosh.
And aren’t profs at Cambridge referred to as ‘fellows’?
By the by, Jamie Oliver would give a good rollicking to anyone today eating stodgy, fatten laden Toad in the Hole.
And I do hope the prejudice of Gypsy Travellers was accurately portrayed, although I can’t imagine those pupils, or their parents, accepting friendship with outsiders as they are viewed as corrupting.
I totally agree with AnotherLori about enjoying stories much more, and finding the HEA more believable, if I think the couple have had time to actually know each other, rather than deciding they’ve met their Soul Mate based on hormones and a weekend together. The chemistry must be present, but it’s almost impossible to truly know someone until you’ve seen them in different situations, interacting with different people. There’s a reason why the wedding vows say “in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer” — to my mind it represents not just the future but whether you’ve experienced enough of the past together to know how each will react.
IPA is a term I’ve learned recently. If you go to a liquor store and browse the beer section, you’ll see a number of packages that say IPA on the side. They seem to be increasingly popular here in Washington.
I read Garden Spells and liked it a lot. It has a slight paranormal aspect to it, but it’s a lovely story of family, siblings, food, and falling in love. It reminded me a bit of Mistress of Spices and Like Water for Chocolate in how the paranormal plays a role in the book but the human aspects are the actual emotional drivers. I liked her next book, Sugar Queen, but not quite as much.
Exactly Anotherlori!! This sounds like something I will like also. And YES! for Sarah Addison Allen. I’ve read her only two books: Garden Spells and Sugar Queen and liked both. That’s what I’m talking about – originality, interesting characters, nice plot and flow with the right amount of suspense ( do you remember the one about books just appearing from nowhere??) This is one American female author I would recommend.
Thanks for the answer to my question, Jayne. This book has me curious so I think I’ll try to find some fundage to get it.
Jayne, thanks for bringing this book to our attention with your review. It sounds like just what I need after a spate of reading historicals where everyone seems to know instantly whom they love. Also, I love a book that feels like its REALLY set in England, not just generically so.
It’s funny that IPA is an unfamiliar term to people. It’s my partner’s favorite style of ale, and we rarely have trouble finding one on either side of the Atlantic. Oh, and I’ve always heard “tip” used to mean dump or landfill, in a rubbish context.
Your review sold me.
So I expect she knows what she’s writing about when it comes to these topics. Maybe Mina’s house is an ex-Council house?
The council house was originally Mina’s mother’s. Mina, her mother and her younger sister lived there. Mina’s mother met a nice bloke and moved in with him, leaving Mina, her daughter Sal and Mina’s sister to live there. The council doesn’t know about this and it’s mentioned that this is something Mina worries about but…since those particular homes were slated to be demolished and rebuilt a while ago, and haven’t been, Mina doesn’t sweat it.
Would someone of Mina’s social class know this? I’m curious myself.
This is a dish Mina’s mother makes and from all the stuff they eat, I think her mother is into comfort food.
This is where the independence of Peter’s daughters comes in. One has befriended a Traveler girl and gets to know her (very slightly) older brother. The Traveler parents aren’t wild about all of this and hint of past problems they’ve had. They don’t appear to be welcoming the people of the village with open arms into their caravans but they are polite to Peter and his daughters.
I don’t know about Cambridge, but at Harvard (the other Cambridge), Fellows has a specific meaning. Legally, the university is governed by “The President and Fellows of Harvard College” (even the Harvard website’s copyright belongs to them), and it was a big deal when the first woman was appointed a Fellow.