Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Holly Russo couldn't be happier.
Christmas, her favourite time of year, is only seven weeks away and her boyfriend has just popped the question. David is steady and reliable, and Holly knows he'll give her a wonderful life. The kind of life she's always wanted. Right?
Then her new neighbour moves in.
Josh O'Toole is also approaching the festive season with joy. He loves his teaching job. He's about to have a baby with his adored girlfriend Stephanie, and they've just moved into a new home to begin their life as a family.
But as Josh and Stephanie settle into their new house across the road from Holly and David's, things begin to get complicated ...
Falling Softly is the sixth book from Maria Duffy and has such a gorgeous wintry cover that teases us with a most romantic story that waits to be discovered between the covers. I read this book in an afternoon, so easy was it to slip into the lives of our main characters Holly Russo and Josh O’Toole. It’s a nice easy read, like any book in the women’s chick lit genre. I do hate using that word, and know it makes people annoyed to see that term used, but that’s what this book is and as this genre has been popular for so many years and we know what to expect from it that’s exactly what I got from this book - a good will they won’t they story.
The story is told in two different viewpoints that of Holly and Josh, and throughout the book at the beginning of various chapters we are taken back in time to understand the relationship between said characters although we don’t discover who we are reading about until several chapters in. These glimpses are very brief but they were a great addition to the story as we gain a deeper understanding as to how they have reached the point they are at today. The story flowed along at a nice pace providing us with characters, some of which you loved to hate and others whom you could see their desperation and torment so much so that you fervently wished that by the end everything would resolve itself. The book had the fairly usual outcome but it still was an enjoyable read just to see how everything panned out.
Holly Russo should be the happiest girl in the world, she has reached that point that most women dream of since they were young girls. Her boyfriend David has just proposed, even if it wasn’t the most romantic of proposals, her long held aspiration has just come true and she should be eagerly planning the best day of her life. David works in the bank so there are no money worries and he can provide anything she wishes for. The problem is there are tiny seeds of doubt planted firmly in the back of her mind which are only beginning to grow all the more. It doesn’t help in the slightest that Mammy Wood is not the mother-in-law you would really want with her firm beliefs regarding the planning and organisation of the wedding. She wants control and to have things her way leaving little opportunity for Holly to stand firm and say what she wants to happen on her big day. A winter wedding with a castle and snow falling has been her vision, needless to say Mammy Wood’s ideas are the polar opposite.
Right from the beginning I really did want Holly to stand up for herself far more, she seemed to just go along with what her mother-in-law to be wanted in order to keep the peace and not upset the apple cart. Surely if she was marrying the person she wanted to spend the rest of her life with she could be honest and open and that’s where the doubt begins to creep in and make itself known. Holly works as a receptionist in the local vets and her friend Milly who works there provided a shoulder to cry on and at times the strong words that Holly needed to hear. But it could possibly be something in the past that is niggling away at Holly preventing her from embracing the future wholeheartedly.
Josh O’Toole is a primary school teacher - just as I am so I completely identified with him but I did find it troubling that he hadn’t enough money and at one point he began to look for a second job. Josh has been with his partner Stephanie for some years and now they are expecting a baby. With this comes great responsibility but also added pressure on Josh, all completely coming from Stephanie’s side. They move to a bigger house and by chance it is the same street that Holly is living on. As we read on we discover Holly and Josh are now more than just neighbours as they had known each other in the past. Old feelings, emotions and situations come rushing back to the surface and for the majority of the book both were completely torn.
Josh was that character I really enjoyed the most in this book, there was real character development and I felt for the situation he found himself in. He was totally torn in two between his heart and mind, between his duties and what he felt deep down was the right thing to do to give him peace of mind and long term happiness. Seeing Holly once again after so many years and the history they shared just made him start to think what have I gotten myself into when it could have been so different and I suppose Holly felt the same way. For the first time in a long time it was the male character in a book that I preferred and normally I am firmly rooting for the female and pay little attention to the male. Maria Duffy gave Josh a voice and I was glad to see that happen as the two sides of the story were very firmly presented and the reader was given their own opportunities to view both sides and make up their own minds as to what should happen.
Normally it’s the partners who are hard done by in a book like this and I usually feel very little sympathy for them but in this case David was a likeable character, apart from his Mammy, but he really couldn’t control her. I felt it was more Holly’s fault that she was having doubts and the reappearance of Josh at a crucial time of her life didn’t help things either. I felt sorry for David in a way as he wasn’t fussy or overpowering, OK he may have been a little bit boring and maybe too normal for Holly’s tastes but in my mind there is nothing wrong with that. He was steadfast, reliable, safe, secure and sensible and up until this point of time that would have served Holly very well but Josh has reawakened a past which at times was just beautiful and the happiest period of her life yet at others there was pain and heartache which still lingers on for her now, even if the positives are now trying to shove the negatives out of the way. As for Stephanie I can’t say the same, I really didn’t like her right from the beginning and never felt the love she supposedly had for Josh. For a woman that is pregnant she didn’t act in the most responsible way, still indulging in a party lifestyle, one which Josh couldn’t hope to keep financing. I had my suspicions about her which grew and grew the further we progressed into the book and I detested her all the more.
This story provided food for thought as to what the reader would do if placed in the same situation and it made me think if I was faced with it what choice would I make? Throughout we were with Josh and Holly as they battled their emotions and I liked how it all played out. I would normally be very firm in my beliefs in relation to what choices faced Holly and Josh but they were pushed aside as I did want them to reconnect and for both of them to find the happiness they deserved. It was enjoyable to keep reading to the end to see did my hopes come to fruition. I enjoyed how a few twists were thrown in from a character who up until that point hadn’t had much of a role to play.
I thought Maria summed up the feeling of love and romance perfectly by this statement. ’When your heart leaps every time he walks into the room. When you can just be together, without words, and feel content. When your first thought in the morning is about him and he’s your last thought before you go to sleep at night. When you feel electricity pulse through you when he brushes against you. And when you feel like nothing else in the world matters when you make love to each other’. I hoped by the end that Holly could feel this way and a resolution could be found for happiness to shine through. I did enjoy Falling Softly I didn’t notice the hours passing while reading and look forward to reading lots more from Maria in the future.
Many thanks to Hachette Books Ireland for my copy of Falling Softly to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.