The Only Exception by Claire Huston
From a dramatic beginning which swiftly introduces several characters, this is a lively and yes, exceptional novel that I greatly enjoyed. It is about a woman, Lucinda, who thinks deeply about romance and love, and is satisfied that the idea of finding a special person is a fantasy. It is about people who have some history, some experience of life, and face challenges beyond straightforward romance. The characters are given vivid realism in this novel, in the small details and the descriptions of what they think. The characters are well introduced, are consistent throughout, and basically come to life in the writing of this talented author. They vary from Alex’s small nieces as they ask embarrassing questions, through Lucinda’s difficult mother, and the event fixer Becky who featured in the author’s previous book, the excellent “Art and Soul”. The settings are well done, as Lucinda owns a catering firm which is always keen to keep its influential customers happy, and for which she feels personally responsible. Alex’s progress as an actor is fascinating, as despite his undoubted abilities he is always insecure and unaware of his attractions for many of the women around him. I enjoyed the idea of how he finds fame in an unexpected way, and how he attracts a particular group of passionate fans.
This book offers real insight into the acting profession, with some of the insecurities of work even if the actor is appearing in a successful series. Alex is an insecure actor who is dedicated to preparation for parts, which is how he is on site to effect a very unusual rescue. The other settings, such as stately homes and kitchens are well described, and the characters are reasonable in their reactions. There are homes, whether shared, family or small flat, which imply a lot about those who live there, and are almost possible to visualise. Probably the most enjoyable element of this novel is the dialogue, which remains lively and realistic throughout the book. It is often funny, heartfelt and always consistent with the characters. There are the sort of text conversations that seem understandable and familiar. Lucinda is a beautifully drawn character, amazed at the attraction she feels for Alex, which is in direct contrast to her beliefs about the existence of true love. She is also surprised at how strongly she feels about his relationships. Her hesitancy is expressed in how dismissive she is of him, even the rudeness she shows during their encounters. Lucinda is fighting the basic electric attraction she feels for Alex from a place of deeply held views about whether there can ever truly be “the one”, as well as ignorance of what he thinks about life.
Another element of this book I especially enjoyed are the twists and turns, the surprises and revelations in this book. They are not dramatic and world changing in many senses, but the coincidences and impulses that many of the characters experience do add depth to the narrative. A woman who features in the first dramatic incident in the book shows herself to be full of surprises, for example. The hunt for a lost dog is entertaining and contains revelations of true feelings amid the mud and clothing decisions.
This book is immensely readable and enjoyable. Not that it lacks depth; it is a detailed and deeply felt book about people with realistic lives. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this memorable book, and thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well written contemporary romance.