4.5 for Whelan’s Debut Novel

by Shelee Juarez, Staff Writer

My Oxford Year is as tender and heartbreaking as it is charmingly witty. Whelan’s debut novel draws on the subtleties of relationships: both romantic and otherwise, and it expounds their effects in great detail. Told with boldly captivating characters and the beauty of England, I fell in love with both the beauty of this country as well as every character within the story.

The connection that Jamie and Ella share—not just the physical aspect but the deep intellectual kinship they foster through the love of literature and learning—creates this smartly hot and magnetic relationship that beguiles and enraptures from the first moment they meet. The complexity to their relationship mirrors the depth in which they were written, and with it you get two incredibly intelligent individuals who not only challenge one another, but create a safe space for the other to fall in to. Ella’s journey is never overpowered by the romance but instead grew with it and because of it. The beauty in her character is showcased through the strength with which she carries on and holds herself up, and though she’s headstrong, they’re the perfect complements to a tender and sweet man like Jamie—a man of which I couldn’t help falling for.

My Oxford Year is unexpectedly poignant and touching. Whelan doesn’t hold back from exploring the entanglement of grief and how it affects everyone so very differently, and she certainly isn’t afraid of showing how it can alter a family in the present or the past. I was surprised in everything I found underneath the story, how layered it and the characters were and its simple beauty. This is the kind of story that will fill your chest up with adoration and happiness while still managing to break your heart—and I loved every single second of that tumultuous but wonderful ride.

BLURB:

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.

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