The Staycation by Cressida McLaughlin
A lovely book of a sort of holiday in a hotel experience, this book takes having to stay in one place to a different level. I have read some of these author’s books before, but this one is certainly a bit different, in a good way. It features two people who have had difficulties in their lives with interesting effects. Hester is a successful travel agent who sets up dream holidays for people all around the world. Her stories of resorts and unique experiences are wonderful. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been to any of them in person. Jake usually lives in New York, and travels around the world to organize the sale of coffee. He has had an accident, and much against his will is stuck in a luxury hotel suite. In this romantic and unusual comedy written in an enjoyable style Hester and Jake encounter holidays that can only be taken virtually – but will that be enough for them, even though money is no object? I found this book to be very entertaining and was glad to have the opportunity to read and review it.
As the book begins, Hester is approaching a door in a luxury London hotel. In one way this is familiar territory; the sort of holidays that she arranges are way beyond the means of most people, including all the special touches that are extremely expensive. She does not visit these wonderful places herself. Since she was eleven, she has been unable to board a plane, running terrified from the airport when she has tried in the company of her two good friends Amber and Glen. Not that her boss Cassie is aware of her problems; thus far she has managed to fend offer all the offers of research trips with excuses. Now she has been asked to visit a young man who is staying in a luxury suite to recover from his injuries sustained in a road accident. Jake jumped into the path of a car to save an older lady, Rosalie, who has insisted on paying for the expensive hotel for him to recover enough to fly back home. He is very close to his sister Beth, who has contacted her good friend Cassie to organize a holiday for Jake to Thailand. In sending Hester to the hotel Cassie is assuming that she will be able to show him all the possibilities of hotels and resorts that will inspire his recovery. However, it becomes obvious that Jake is still feeling battered and bruised, and just wants to go home to New York. Hester matches wits with him, and he requests that she return and create evenings of virtual holidays for him in the hotel suite. On one level this should be easy, as a hotel employee called Marty will provide all the props, the chef will provide approximations of local food, and a screen can be rigged up to show virtual tours. What Jake is asking for is a problem because Hester has only effectively been abroad once and must use the stories of other people to make the holidays sound convincing and real. As the sparks of attraction begin between them, can Hester come to terms with her fears, and will Jake be able to accept less than the truth?
McLaughlin has a light touch with characters and a reassuring ability to draw the surrounding friends and family in such a way to give real depth to their portrayal. In a book that depends on convincing stories, she is able to conjure up places and experiences for the characters as well as the main narrative. This is a great story to emerge from a period when many have been unable to travel in reality, and perhaps inspires new dreams.