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5 November 2015

Blog Tour: 'Learning to Speak American' by Colette Dartford

After the tragic death of their only child, Lola and Duncan Drummond’s last chance to regain their lost happiness and rebuild their marriage lies in a trip to America.  Day tripping in the heart of California’s wine region, the couple stumble across a derelict house in Napa Valley that’s crying out for love and attention.

It’s a far cry from their life in the Somerset village they call home, but Lola immediately falls for the house and shows the first spark of enthusiasm since the death of Clarissa. Unable to talk about Clarissa, Duncan reaches out to his wife in the only way he knows how, buying the house in the hope that the renovation project will bring both Lola and their relationship back to life.

As Lola works on the house she begins to realise the liberating power of letting go, helped along the way by her new Californian friends including easy going blond and blue-eyed project manager, Cain McCann. He may be 10 years younger than Lola, but his surfer good looks and easy charm work wonders, and soon Lola finds herself opening up for the first time in years. 

Unbeknown to Lola, back at home her life with Duncan has begun to fall apart. Still emotionally scarred from his daughter’s death, Duncan starts to lose deal after deal in his high flying London job.  Finding release in a series of one night stands, Duncan convinces himself he still loves Lola and promises himself that each infidelity will be the last…until he meets Saskia. 

As Duncan and Lola get caught up in a series lies and indiscretions, drifting into the arms of others, will they be able to untangle their relationship or will the distance tear them apart?

Today I'm really excited to be part of the blog tour for author Colette Dartford's debut novel 'Learning to Speak American'! The novel is released today, November 5th, as an e-book by Twenty7, and the paperback version will follow in 2016. The book was actually a quarter finalist in Amazon's First Novel Prize and as soon as I saw the cover it grabbed my attention. It reminds me of lovely sunny days and gorgeous landscape views, and I think all of us can use a bit of warming up now the days are getting both colder and shorter! As a part of the blog tour I also have a character study from Colette Dartford to share with all of you today, so be sure to not miss it by just scrolling down!

Lola and Duncan Drummond have been married for over twenty years, but ever since the tragic death of their daughter Clarissa things haven't been the same between them. In order to try and fix things, Duncan takes Lola on a trip to California, far away from their daily lives in England. Against expectations, Lola falls in love with an abandoned house in the woods of Napa Valley and Duncan decides to buy it in the hope it will bring both Lola and their marriage back to life. However, Lola's passion for the renovation of the house and her new Californian friends on the one hand and Duncan's troubles at work and with dealing with the past on the other, only cause the rift between them to become even bigger. Will they be able to save their marriage or is it time to admit defeat?

'Learning to Speak American' is Colette Dartford's debut novel and a book that is slightly based on her own experiences. I really liked the setting of the book; the differences between the Somerset village and the American life in Napa Valley really shone through in the writing and I loved the detailed descriptions that made it easy to imagine everything. Each chapter of the novel is told from one character's perspective, mainly the two protagonists Duncan and Lola, providing the reader with a chance to really see what the characters are thinking and feeling. There are quite a number of secrets being kept and it was interesting to see how specifically Lola and Duncan dealt with certain things and communicated with each other and the people around them. 

It took a bit of time before I really got into this novel, because I wasn't quite sure where the storyline was going to go and I had a bit of difficulty reading and warming to the characters. Duncan and Lola have experienced something truly tragic and they are both trying to find their own way to move on. I did feel for Lola, but somehow I couldn't connect to Duncan, not even in the slightest way. I was, however, intrigued by their story and wondered how it would all eventually end. Overall, I did enjoy reading 'Learning to Speak American'; it was an engaging, well-written, and quite heavy women's fiction read; one that held my attention throughout and certainly a promising start to Colette Dartford's writing career!
For more information about this book: / / Goodreads

Learning to Speak American by Colette Dartford is out now and is £3.99 on Amazon.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Character study by Colette Dartford

There are three main characters in Learning To Speak American: Duncan and Lola Drummond, a British couple whose marriage is blighted by the death of their only child two years earlier, and Cain McCann, an easy-going American who oversees the renovation of a derelict house the Drummonds impulsively purchase in California’s Napa Valley.

They are very different people and as their creator, I love all three but if pressed to pick a favourite, I would have to say Duncan. For reasons I can’t explain, I find it easier to write a bad man than a good woman. I should qualify that statement by saying Duncan isn’t a really a bad man, but a good man in a bad situation who makes morally questionable choices. His eight-year-old daughter, Clarissa, was killed while in his care and he blames himself for her death. Consumed by panic attacks he is too ashamed to admit to, he finds respite in anonymous sexual encounters—the only thing powerful enough to pause the memory of Clarissa’s accident, stuck on replay in his head. For Duncan this isn’t infidelity—it’s survival.

Duncan still loves his wife but the marriage has never recovered from the trauma of losing their child. Struggling under a tsunami of guilt, Duncan shrinks from the very mention of Clarissa’s name. When Lola pleads with him to talk about her – our memories are all we have left – he retreats behind an impenetrable silence which leaves no doubt that the subject is taboo.
As a last ditch attempt to save their marriage, Duncan takes Lola on an anniversary trip to California – vibrant San Francisco and then north to the glorious Napa Valley. It is here that they stumble across a derelict house for sale and for the first time since Clarissa’s death, Lola shows a flicker of enthusiasm. Seizing on the hope that this might be a project to make her look to the future rather than dwelling on the past, Duncan buys the house. Despite his one night stands, (which he tells himself mean nothing), he loves his wife and is desperate to fix what he has broken. He doesn’t think about the practicalities or the money, only the possibility that Lola might be happy again. That is all he wants.

In this respect he appears to gets his wish, but as Lola’s life is coming together, Duncan’s is falling apart. The recession casts a long shadow over his career and as he struggles to pay for the house, panic threatens to overwhelm him completely. Instead of confiding in his wife, he takes comfort in Saskia, a young Russian escort. With her he feels calm and in control, and he soon realises their connection runs far deeper than just sex.

But Lola habours her own dark secret and when this is dramatically revealed, the Drummonds are forced to face up to the truth about themselves, their marriage and their future.

Duncan is my favourite character because he is flawed, complex and unfailingly human.
Thanks so much, Colette!

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