I’ve been lucky enough to snag a copy of the new novel Romancing Charlotte, by Colin Scott. On the most obvious level, this is a charming page-turner of a romance set in modern-day Ireland. With well-developed characters and touching but realistic familial relationships complimenting the various romantic plotlines, this is a great book to cozy up with on a chill evening.
That being said, there’s a lot more to this story: Scott’s hero and heroine are no ingénues, and it’s refreshing and all too rare to read a romance about folks in their later years. With a Downton-Abbeyesque twist, Charlotte is the lady of the local manor, while PJ, recently returned from living in the States, is descended from a humbler family. This division is a tricky one anywhere, and it’s made even more complex in an Irish setting, what with issues of religion and politics. Scott also weaves in a strong sense of place, and a subplot involving illegal turf-cutting in peat bogs, an issue that is similarly layered and three-dimensional. While “Colin Scott” is – according to his own twitter profile – a pseudonym, it’s obvious that this Irish author is writing from inside the culture: Romancing Charlotte takes place in the nuanced, complex world of modern Ireland, not some “top o’ the mornin'” Hollywood version.
The Verdict: Romancing Charlotte is like a good raspberry cordial: It’s sweet and goes down easy, but nevertheless can be quite nuanced and much more nourishing than you might think. It’s a perfect choice for anyone interested in the subtleties of modern Irish culture, for anyone who’d like to take a trip abroad between the pages, and really for anyone looking for a good read that will neither traumatize nor patronize.