Published by William Morrow on April 24, 2018
Source: the publisher
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Major Motion Picture Already in Development with Temple Hill Entertainment
Set amidst the breathtaking beauty of Oxford, this sparkling debut novel tells the unforgettable story about a determined young woman eager to make her mark in the world and the handsome man who introduces her to an incredible love that will irrevocably alter her future—perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.
American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day.
When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret.
Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
When I saw the cover for My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan, I added it to my to-read list instantly. I was thrilled when I got an early copy and excitedly put it on my nightstand. And then I realized that it was recommended for fans of Jojo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks, and I got a little nervous. Not because that changed my enthusiasm for the story – I love both Moyes and Sparks – but because that probably meant that the book would be packing much more emotion behind that super-cute cover than I initially thought.
This is exactly what happens. There is a bit more to this story than the cute cover suggests!
Ella Duggan is headed to Oxford for a year, for a Once-In-A-Lifetime-Experience. She has hard plans to return home on a specific day (she already has her return airfare), then she will begin a career in politics. Ella doesn’t anticipate falling for the first guy she meets, the guy in the first cafe where she experienced real fish and chips. She isn’t attracted to him initially; he is obnoxious, loud, and generally everything she doesn’t want in a male counterpart. Or, at least, that was the impression that he gave off. It turns out that he is teaching one of her classes at Oxford, and through this connection Ella eventually falls for him. They start a fling, which turns into more than a fling. And while Ella fell for Jamie Davenport, I too fell for Jamie Davenport.
These two are wonderful characters. Jamie is charming and educated. He loves poetry and literature, and he loves discussing books with Ella (let’s be honest: that is so sexy). He’s also on the mysterious side without being broody and alpha-type, which we sometimes see in romance novels. This is something that I loved about him from the beginning and I think Ella loved it too. It wasn’t long before that mystery turned into a not-quite-positive thing.
Ella is charming. She goes after what she wants, which is how she ended up in Oxford in the first place, with a bright future in politics. I love the way she is awed by the history of her surroundings while she is in England and how she seems to settle in easily. I do think she held me (the reader) at arm’s length a little bit, and I wish that wasn’t the case. Maybe that’s because Ella knew her time at Oxford would be limited to one year and then she would return to America? Either way, I wasn’t able to feel as fully connected to Ella as much as I was to Jamie, but I did still love them both, individually and together.
All of the secondary characters are just wonderful and so fun. They’re a colorful cast, very quirky, and they made me smile over and over.
Ms. Whelan did such a great job of describing Oxford that I felt like I was there, and there are a few instances where Ella and Jamie are off campus – I feel like I was able to visualize those settings nicely too. I particularly love how the literature and history was woven into the story. These are things that really make me excited as a lover of fiction, so every time anything like this would pop up with Ella or Jamie, I felt excited. (This happened fairly often since the area is so rich in history and Ella and Jamie are both tied to the literature department at Oxford.)
I just wasn’t expecting some of the things that happened in the second half of the book! I mean, I probably should have, given that the book was compared to Jojo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks, but I think I got engrossed in the reading and was so into the story that by the time it came, WHAM. There are some clues placed here and there in the first half, but by far the first half is much more easy-going, and the heavier, more weighty material hits somewhere around halfway-ish into the story. From there, just oh my gosh. The story is still wonderful and funny and I loved every single word, but I felt so many things. I felt everything.
I’m hesitant to talk too much about it. Because, spoilers.
I will say that I LOVE the way Ms. Whelan ended the story and I appreciate this end so, so much. I’ll be rereading this, but I’ll wait just a little while. It was just a tiny personal for me in some places toward the end. Just with some things that I’m experiencing with my family at the moment. I can relate to some of these characters more closely than I expected and some of the quotes basically knocked me over. I’m sure I loved the story a little more because of this, but I’m also 100% sure that I would have loved it just as much without this particular connection.
I didn’t listen to this one on audio with this first read, and WHY NOT ASHELEY? Julia Whelan is one of my absolutely TOP favorite narrators. So going back and listening to this one with her reading it to me is something that I think would be an absolute treat.