Author: Beth O’Leary
What if the end of the road is just the beginning?
Four years ago, Dylan and Addie fell in love under the Provence sun. Wealthy Oxford student Dylan was staying at his friend Cherry’s enormous French villa; wild child Addie was spending her summer as the on-site caretaker. Two years ago, their relationship officially ended. They haven’t spoken since.
Today, Dylan’s and Addie’s lives collide again. It’s the day before Cherry’s wedding, and Addie and Dylan crash cars at the start of the journey there. The car Dylan was driving is wrecked, and the wedding is in rural Scotland–he’ll never get there on time by public transport.
So, along with Dylan’s best friend, Addie’s sister, and a random guy on Facebook who needed a ride, they squeeze into a space-challenged Mini and set off across Britain. Cramped into the same space, Dylan and Addie are forced to confront the choices they made that tore them apart–and ask themselves whether that final decision was the right one after all.
While The Flatshare is still on my radar, I became interested in Beth O’Leary after enjoying The Switch. Although I went into The Road Trip partially blind, I was told to expect a heavier side to the novel as it is not light-hearted throughout the entire story. After finishing this novel, I am glad that I received the “warning” as I would have expected a lighter story and would have come away disappointed. By adjusting my expectations, I at least enjoyed it as the five characters travel together in a small car across the UK for a wedding. Two of these passengers also happen to be exes after a heartbreaking break-up. There is a lot of humor throughout, but it is best to not expect it to keep that way from start to finish as the story is filled with exploration of toxicity, drama, and emotional traumas.
The story is divided into timelines with “Now” and “Then” sections. The story starts in the “Now” and then wavers back and forth between the two timelines. Addie, her sister, Deb, and their rideshare passenger, Rodney, are all heading from Chinchester to Scotland when they get in a car accident with another car. The other car happens to contain Addie’s ex-boyfriend, Dylan, and his best friend, Marcus. As they are all heading to the same place for a wedding and want to get there on time, they decide to travel together. I loved this concept as it takes the forced proximity concept to the extreme, as five adults have to ride together in a small car. Anyone who has gone on a road trip with others will immediately relate, as it is not always smooth sailing with pit stops, different needs, and unexpected obstacles. On top of typical road trip antics, there is the added tension between Addie and Dylan, who broke up a little less than two years ago. They did not part on the best of terms, so the awkwardness between them is apparent. While there is tension, the “Now” storyline has a lot of humor with the five of them traveling together.
In the “Then” sections, the reader gets flashbacks to Dylan and Addie forming their relationship from their first meeting in France while Dylan is a guest at a villa where Addie is the caretaker to their heartbreaking separation. The entire story is told from both Dylan and Addie’s perspectives, so the reader gets to see both sides of the tale. Marcus is heavily involved in the story as he has been friends with Dylan for a while and Deb is involved in the tale. All of the characters were intriguing and are very complex as they each have their own issues that they are working through in the story. While I liked Addie and Deb provided some nice support, Dylan and Marcus were both characters that were difficult to like. Their relationship has many issues that are not healthy for a friendship and each of them have a lot of emotional/mental health that they need to figure out. The romantic relationship between Addie and Dylan is a whirlwind romance while they are in a vacation environment together and problems slowly reveal themselves as they return to the “real world” in the UK.
As the story progresses, the characters are forced to interact more and more in the “Now” timeline where the reader gets to learn about the people that they have become. In the “Then” timelines, pieces of their past relationship are revealed moving along their romantic journey. As this is essentially a second-chance romance, I appreciated the concept of the two timelines to not fully reveal what broke the couple up and instead reveal it over time. Given their circumstances, I could see why they moved quickly at the start of their relationship and then had to slowly deal with their issues after they are living their day-to-day lives. For me, once they reached this point, it was difficult to see how their relationship even lasted as long as it did. It is clear that they love each other, but it seemed their long list of issues was more trouble than it was worth as there could be better partners out there for each.
Overall, the actual reason for the break-up was a surprise to me, but the smaller issues were predictable. There is a lot of character growth in this story, but I am not quite sure that there is enough to justify rooting for the two characters to try a relationship again. For me, I think there is still a lot to work through before they would be in a place to not make the same mistakes again and end up right back in the same spot. I did enjoy the sister relationship between Deb and Addie and eventually Marcus and Dylan grew on me. Deb and Addie were the more interesting pair, but I appreciated the growth in the relationship between Dylan and Marcus. Both characters, however, still are works in progress, but I appreciated their growth. For the romance, it just was not for me, as I did not find myself rooting for them at any point in the novel. I am in the minority for this, so this part of the story might be better suited for another reader. While this story was not fully for me, I continued to enjoy the author’s style and will definitely try more from her in the future!