Book Review: Backpack and a Red Dress

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Book Review:  Backpack and a Red Dress by Maddie Jane

Don’t judge a book by its cover… Backpack and a Red Dress has a gorgeous cover which, along with that excellent title, evokes thoughts of a heroine escaping the big city and finding herself and her love whilst travelling in a red dress that holds some sort of significance. Unfortunately, neither the cover nor the title (nor my wild imaginings prompted by them) reflects the reality of the book and its plot.

Cally, our heroine, does travel from New Zealand to England, this is true, but any red dress she might have squashed into her backpack doesn’t play a huge role. The brief mention of these two items happens in the opening scene where Cally thinks about how she should have packed a coat when she realises how cold she is while strutting down the street, heading for a confrontation with the hero in an office building. You’ll find this exact same scene in one of my many unfinished romances I wrote when I was about 18, or in any number of published romances.

And that’s my biggest issue with Backpack and a Red Dress. Far from being the ‘fresh contemporary romance’ as stated on the blurb, it’s the same old, same old. I literally could find the rest of the plot in at least 100 other Mills & Boons/Harlequin romances circa 1987 when I binge read them under the covers as a teenager. Nearly every cliche other than the hero being Greek and the heroine being a virgin is represented.

Maddie Jane can undoubtedly write. There were many lovely turns of phrase that made me nod with approval. She also adeptly created chemistry between the leads, and her descriptions of their physical intimacy is quite nice (although, again, like an 80s M&B she does fade to black a little too much, I believe) but she needs to produce something much more unique, with realistic conflict and backgrounds for the characters suitable for the 21st century than this.

Escape Publishing burst onto the scene a couple of years ago with such promising modern quirky reads. They need to stop playing it safe and leave this sort of plot to their parent company.

2 1/2 out of 5



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