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Evie is a tour guide who leads groups around Europe, but when we first meet her in Barbados she's there for pleasure, not work. She's back with Rob, her boyfriend who also works on the tour circuit. She's just about forgiven him for cheating on her and this holiday and their subsequent moving in together with be a fresh start.
From the get go, you're not supposed to be a fan of Rob. And, honestly, he's quite easy to dislike. He's controlling. He doesn't like Evie working her evening bar job. He won't let her tour any more without him. He's secretive. You have to wonder why she's still with him, but she is and so that's that. And although she doesn't stick up for herself as much as I think she should, she does try. A few trips crop up that she gets to guide, leaving Rob behind whether he likes it or not, and that's when the adventures really begin.
I was hoping for more or better descriptions of the places she visits but they were a bit plain and ordinary at times. With the exception of Amsterdam, I'd been every place she goes in the book, and would have liked the story to bring back a few almost forgotten memories, but it didn't. And since I was off to Amsterdam in a few months (it wouldn't do for Evie to have been somewhere I've not) I was half wondering whether I'd glean any hints and tips from her short stray there, but again I was left wanting. The author used to be a tour guide, so I don't doubt that she knows the places well, but this didn't really shine through.
I was also a little confused by the Venice stamp at the start of every chapter, since it's a few hundred pages before she even gets to step foot on Italian soil, whatever the title says. That's partly because she has various other places to go first (from Marrakech to Dublin), and partly because it does drag on a bit, especially the various will they or won't they scenarios with Rob. Beyond the title, the blurb on the back is a bit odd too, suggesting to me a different story would be contained within the pages. And I'm not the biggest fan of the line "He cheated, but only once!" which, jolly exclamation mark and all, starts the blurb on the back and is also how it's being advertised online. I couldn't help but think the "but only once" seemed to be implying that well, that's ok then, which is a sentiment I would disagree with (and I'm sure many within the target readership would feel the same). Similarly, the back cover's "Welcome to Venice - the city of love" made me think I might be about to read a book set in, well, Venice. And not Tooting.
This is the sequel to 'It Happened In Paris' where Evie and Rob first meet - I assume in the French capital, though I've not read it. It would be interesting to know what he was like back then as I hope he was both nicer and more sane so his behaviour now is a downward negative spiral rather than the norm. You don't need to have read that first novel, however, as any back story essentials are filled in here and Venice is a stand alone story in its own right.
Evie has more than a touch of Fifty Shades' Ana Steele to her. She very rarely asserts herself, and tends to defer to one of the men in her life - be it the aforementioned Rob, her boss from the bar Nikki, or the dashing John, a client who repeatedly books her for his corporate tours. It was clear that as readers we were supposed to warm to John, and I did, so it was odd that Evie didn't seem to see in him quite what we did. She also drinks too much (why do these girls always do that?), spends too much money and hides from the bills (ditto!) and claims to have little knowledge of current affairs. It's certainly not the first time I've read a piece of chicklit with a heroine like that.
There are various threads to the story beyond Evie's travels and the Rob situation, like her flatmate's (in)ability to quit smoking. While at times these add to the story and help provide a background to her actions and her life in general, at other times they only serve to drag things out some more.
I may be being a bit unfair, because when it comes down to it, this isn't the sort of book that lends itself to critiquing. I mostly really enjoyed reading it when I wasn't trying to list what was good or lacking, and just got lost in the story without paying too much attention to detail. I stand by what I have said about the destinations and the length, but ultimately this is an easy beach or sofa book that doesn't take too much concentration to get into. It's fluffy but it's fun, it's easy to read, and I think it will have wide appeal, so as a book to read, rather than a book to review, it gets a solid star rating.
This review originally appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk
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