It is always difficult to follow up a beloved book like Me Before You, but I think Moyes fans will be happy with her latest – I was. This is another contemporary romance, but in a more traditional way.
Jess is a single mom who is barely scraping by. Her husband walked out two years previously but is living with his mother and hasn’t sent any money or even seen his own kids. Jess’s daughter Tanzie is an 8 year old math prodigy, and she also takes in her stepson, Nicky, a teenager with some social issues who is getting beaten up on a regular basis by a neighborhood family of ne’er-do-wells.
Jess works all the time, cleaning houses by day and tending bar by night. She juggles her bills, keeping one step ahead by robbing Peter to pay Paul, and manages to keep food on the table, but just barely. When Tanzie’s math teacher calls to say that Tanzie has earned the possibility of a scholarship to a prestigious private school, Jess is dubious about even being able to pay the registration fee.
Then one of her cleaning clients, Ed, a rude dot com millionaire, gets drunk at the pub where she works. She manages to get a friend to drive him home, but when she gets back in the car she finds a wad of bills. Jess is a very moral character, but desperate for the registration fee, she takes the money and swears to herself that she will pay it back.
Ed has troubles of his own. In trying to dump a girlfriend, he inadvertently gives her inside information and she makes a killing in the stock market. He doesn’t make a dime but the cops come after him anyway.
Tanzie is offered the opportunity to participate in a math competition with prize money enough to cover the private school expenses, except it is in Scotland and Jess can’t afford the train fare. Desperate, she decides to drive, taking a an old broken down Rolls Royce that’s been stored in her garage for more than 2 years. No license and no insurance is a recipe for disaster and sure enough, the cops impound the car.
Ed happens by and stops to help. He ends up driving them all to Scotland, a four day trip, and Jess and Ed fall in love along the way. They both have a lot of baggage, but can they get past all their issues? Will these kids work out their problems?
Moyes writes great characters, and I will not be forgetting these anytime soon. This was a really enjoyable, fast read that should please her legion of fans.
7/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
ONE PLUS ONE by JoJo Moyes. Pamela Dorman Books (July 1, 2014). ISBN 978-0525426585. 384p.