Synopsis: The last thing publicist Remi expected was to be assigned to her college sweetheart, but the reclusive musician needed to revamp his image to move from a songwriter who performs at country pubs to a rockstar drawing crowds to concert. Twelve years ago he ended their relationship due to her workaholic ways, but now her talent was going to save his career… but can they keep from falling in love again?
Author: Brenda St John Brown is a New Yorker turned Brit who writes contemporary romance novels, and loves to have the occasional American character transplanted to England (much like herself).
Cover: While I don’t love this cover as much as the Castle Calder series (both old and new versions), the charm is in the details. At first glance all you see is a couple standing back-to-back and giving off some antagonistic vibes. While the male is hawt as heck, there is something off-putting about the female to the point where I was ready to not like the fmc in the book before even turning to the first page. However, if you look beyond the duo there is what appears to be a drawn skyline of the Tower Bridge adding a bit of whimsy.
Writing Style: This story is polished to near-perfection (which says a lot for an ARC as there are generally a few errors that slipped through the cracks and need to be corrected). I ended up being quite enthralled by the story that I actually forgot to keep a bit of distance in order to give it a (somewhat) objective review. If I had to pick out a particular “flaw” it would be some of the Britishisms and an unfamiliarity of some of the places mentioned that left me having to look things up to understand the significance. Even living in London for a couple of years myself did not help, but due to the FMC also being a transplant her inner monologue helps us North Americans understand most of it.
Character: I love a good companion series with recurring people and places, so it was a pleasant surprise to find characters of the Castle Calder crew making an appearance in this one. It’s been a while since I read the trilogy, but I still recognized the names straight away and it made me want to do a reread of them. However, it is a new character, Paula, that truly caught my attention. She was just a random person entering Remi’s life, but made herself a person-of-interest when recounting a tale of her own lovelorn woes. I would now really like a story about Paula finding someone who will be a good match for her too.
Romance: Second-chance romances are a particular trope that has a hard time pleasing me; there are only certain circumstances I find tolerable as I generally think exes are axed for a reason and should stay that way. And when I learned it was twelve years since this couple had dated I thought “ugh, they’re going to be old”, yet soon came around as I realized it would be no different than me bumping into one of my college crushes again and falling in love. Brenda SJB made what would normally turn me off a book into something I enjoyed with a tight storyline and likeable characters. I was rooting for this pair before they even (re)met!
Character Development: I like how Remi did not so much as change as re-evaluate her priorities and decide a need for a better work/life balance. Basically, she made choices that would lead towards her own happiness rather than anyone else’s. However there was still a smidgen undertone of compromising one’s own plans for a man and his career, something said man was not wiling to do when it came to Remi’s profession. While I still think the FMC is a strong female character and despite it being clear Alastair was willing to make an effort, I would have liked to actually see Alistair also bend a bit in compromise too.
Personal Thoughts: The title gave me qualms and still does. Before reading the blurb I took “maid” as servant and, while that can work in historicals, it doesn’t have the same appeal in a contemporary setting. There is also the definition of maid meaning unmarried, but that has such negative undertones and no longer a term much in use. I suppose it could refer to Remi being a bridesmaid, the book is a first in a series called the I Do Crew, but the impending wedding is not a major focus of the story. So although there is likely a maid/made play on words with the title, I just cannot figure out what it has to do with the book at all.
Quote: Alastair Wells is nobody… but he’s somebody to me.
Verdict: I think I may like this novel better than the Castle Calders –and that’s hard to say as I love all things castle-y. Maid in England is a great read as the storyline is believable (despite being about a reclusive rockstar), the characters likeable (despite one being a workaholic and the other having stupid-male moments); and the writing itself shows the author’s talent. I would definitely suggest anyone who enjoys all things British, all things music, or all things romantical to give this a go and I can hardly wait to discover who else is in the I Do Crew…