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Saturday, June 9, 2012

REVIEW: Change of Pace by Sofia Essen

4 of 5 Stars


“Sometimes, it takes leaving everything you know behind to find yourself…”

Change of Pace is charming story and would be a great beach read, or if you want to go on a holiday but can’t quite yet, and want to escape to life in a quaint village in the Mediterranean, just for a little. It’s Winter here in Australia so the latter was more applicable to me.

It is the story of hard-working Anna Cox from New York, who gets dumped by her boyfriend, gets fired from her job of 10 years, and turns 30, all within the span of a week. In her turmoil at these events, Anna decides to jump on a plane to Greece. This spontaneity is so unlike Anna who is usually so predictable and cautious. 

From New York...

To Crete, Greece...

On the plane, she meets Alex Collins, a charming, handsome, blond haired ex-pat from the UK – OMG, a British accent I my head! *swoons* ^_^

Anna blurts out her miserable story to Alex, who listens sympathetically, then kindly invites her to Crete and takes her to a B&B he knows there. The B&B turns out to be an old white-washed stone house with cornflower blue doors and shutters, surrounded by olive, lemon, orange and walnut trees, owned by his mother, Jane, in the village of Drapanias.

Wow, going with a stranger to an unknown village? Either Anna has lost her mind or there’s something reassuring about Alex, and so Anna decides to take a leap of faith.

Anna is welcomed warmly by Alex’s free-spirited, funny, kind and candid mother, Jane. I loved Jane, and not just because we have the same name. She was a hoot!

I also loved Tiny, Alex’s shaggy black stray, who enjoys munching on things. 

Oh, Tiny, what are you munching on now!

Alex, has had many girlfriends and been through many jobs – one of which was as a scuba diving instructor in Langkawi, Malaysia! That made me smile as I’m from Malaysia. His mother, Jane, thinks he is afraid of commitment to a relationship or job, but maybe Alex just needed to sow his wild oats. Alex is sweet and rather romantic and Anna finds herself falling for him.

As Anna settles in to Villa Drapanias, days turn into weeks, then months. Anna spends her time walking on the beach, drinking Retsina (the local white wine), Raki (a strong distilled spirit) and enjoying the local cuisine, and spending time Alex, Jane and the locals.

That Raki is strong stuff...

Retsina, the local dry white wine...

The welcoming Cretan villagers...^_^

For someone who was rather cautious and a bit insecure of herself, Anna made many friends, quite easily, in Drapanias. This surprised me, initially, as I couldn’t imagine myself doing that, especially considering myself to be a lot like Anna’s character. But then I thought that as Anna leaped into spontaneity by jumping on a plane into the unknown, this extended to the life she started living one day at a time on Crete. She did develop a routine - hey, a leopard doesn’t change its spots - but she opened herself to this different life and to the people there. Anna is an accepting, kind and approachable person, and so, then, it didn’t seem all that unbelievable that she would make friends so easily.

I really liked Anna. Through life in Crete and some unexpected surprises, Anna learns more about herself and her family. I enjoyed her journey and the honesty she had with herself.

The pace of Change of Pace is like that of life in Crete. It moves along at a slow and steady pace. Sofia Essen’s vivid descriptions of Crete, its culture, cuisine and people, transported me there and made me feel like I was on a free holiday.

Author Sofia Essen was inspired to write this story from her own extended vacation in Crete, lasting three years, thus far, and so she draws from her experiences in writing this book. 

The glorious views in Crete... 

The City of Chania, Crete...

Change of Pace is a first person narrative and Anna has a charming voice with some quirky humour. There is a lot of narrative in this story, though, and while I liked Anna’s voice, I would have liked more dialogue.

It is Chick-Lit, and being a predominantly Romance reader, I would have liked more Anna-and-Alex time; so to be fair to the genre, my rating is based on my overall enjoyment of the book, bearing in mind its Chick-Lit-ness. ^_^

Steam level: Mild, so no worries about blushing or being overheated at the beach. ^_^

4-Stars, from me.

Review copy kindly provided to me directly by author, Sofia Essen, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Sofia!