Brenda St. John Brown is my FAVORITE. I know I’m going to love anything she writes so I’m always super excited when I see she has a new novel coming out. She never disappoints me and this time wasn’t any different.
A Brit on the Side is a lighter read than what I’m used to from Brenda, but it’s SO incredibly well done. I was totally sucked into Bea’s story from the first page. Bea’s recently broken off an engagement to Theo. Theo’s a great guy, but kind of like vanilla ice cream- delicious, but doesn’t make your heart race. So she’s taken her roommate, Scarlett up on her offer to come work at her family’s castle for the summer. All’s well until she finds out Scarlett’s brother, Jasper, will also be at the castle for the summer. Bea and Jasper shared a steamy weekend, but nothing ever came of it, and Bea regretfully neglected to mention it to Scarlett. Uh oh… The story takes off from there.
What I think Brenda does so well is realistic relationships. She has this amazing ability to write people that you feel like could actually exist. Her characters have realistic conversations and reactions to the events that transpire in her novels. It’s so refreshing. I get so sick of the grand gestures and sappy conversations in a lot of new adult novels. When I open one of Brenda’s novels I know I’m going to get sucked into a world I feel like I could really live in. A world populated by people I think I could tolerate and be friends with in real life. ABotS is no different in this respect.
The author did a great job of giving the characters’ distinct personalities. Obviously Jasper is super swoony, but some of the minor character’s really stood out to me. Scarlett was so well written in the sense that she seemed very difficult and self-centered, but was still likable. I think the early twenties are a tough time for female friendships. Most women are figuring out who they are and what they want during this time in their lives. A lot of the time their relationships with other women become more difficult because everyone is in the middle of being the most selfish they’ll ever be. I think the way Scarlett and Bea were written really walked the line of them being realistically self-centered and also truly caring about each other and the other’s needs and feelings. This relationship was really well done. I also really loved Bea’s relationship with her mother. Bea’s mother is full of cliches and southern advice that I found so realistic that I wonder if Brenda has a southern mother. I do have a southern mother and Mrs. Gillespie was so spot on. She means well and you can tell she loves Bea, but can sometimes really miss the mark with her advice and what she thinks is best for her daughter. I loved this.
The character building here is just really complex. I loved how every character was super nuanced and authentic. Brenda doesn’t use these lazy throw away characters as plot devices like you see in a lot of NA novels. You don’t have “the villain” who is just around to stir up trouble and create conflict. The story is well plotted and well paced and moves along because the author has actually put effort into moving the story forward- not because there’s a character that exists solely to create a conflict arch for our hero and heroine to work through. Additionally, this story is as much a love story between Bea and Jasper as it is a story of growth for Bea. She’s peeled back super slowly over the course of the novel and truly comes into herself. It was really rewarding to read her story and see her not only fall in love with Jasper, but she seems to start to love herself as well.
And finally, I’m going to say what I say at the end of every one of my reviews for this author, the way she resolves conflict just realllllly realllly does it for me. Her characters behave like actual humans to solve their problems and I LOVE it. The main conflict arch isn’t resolved because of some crazy deus ex machina or anything else weird, it’s resolved as if it takes place on Earth. Thank you for this, Brenda. THANK YOU.
In closing, I highly recommend this. It just screams summer read. It’s a perfect beach or vacation book. It isn’t heavy on the angst, but is a super cute love story with a lot of depth. If you’re looking for something to curl up on a beach chair with or sit on your back porch and read with a Coke in your hand, this is your book. I will 100% be pre-ordering this in paperback as soon as its available.