Book Review: Punk Charming
Date: Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 10:08PM
Reviewed by Julie S. Halpern
Laura Quinn’s first novel, Punk Charming, is a delightful romantic romp through the 1980s, written with loving details by an author who obviously adores the period. The novel is fueled by a soundtrack of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, and Wham, along with the spot-on period product placement and references that occasionally approach overkill (but who can resist New Coke, the Walkman, and Dallas?). The net effect is an instant trip back to the fun, edgy mid-eighties.
Chicago college student Kate Spenser is thrilled about spending a summer studying in Oxford, England. Her parents arrange for her to stay with friends in Paris for a few days before traveling to England, but upon her arrival in the City of Lights, a terrifying series of miscommunications land her in peril. She is magically rescued by James, an adorable punk Brit, who whisks her through a madcap Paris romance before putting her on the train to England. In their passionate fervor, they forget to exchange last names and begin a cycle of near misses that lasts for nearly two decades.
Once settled in Oxford, Kate pines for James, but has a good time with many new friends, one of whom is David, a brilliant young scientist from a poor family who falls hard for her. Despite her constant talk of James, David continues to be smitten and plots a web of deceit to keep the lovers apart. He also befriends the still-besotted James and remains in contact with him for many years, repeatedly throwing him off the trail of Kate. When all efforts to find James fail, Kate returns home to Chicago, but never forgets their time together. As the years go by, she never gives up hope of finding him.
James cannot forget Kate either and similarly attempts to find her. He is discouraged his by lack of career success and being stuck living in his parent’s home. His family is minor nobility and he constantly chafes at the restrictions put on him. Back in Chicago, Kate has settled into a stultifying job while she pursues a Masters degree and her dream of a writing career. Both remain enamored of each other despite the years, lack of contact, and pressures from family and friends to settle down with suitable mates. Still in Oxford, David has become a celebrated scientist, but still rages over his humble roots and the advantages of the wealthy. His continued obsession with Kate and jealousy of James fuels dangerous behavior, which threatens to destroy Kate and James’s hope of reconnecting. But through a strange turn of events, there may yet be hope. Unfortunately David reappears and creates havoc. Will the punk prince and his beloved ever be reunited?
Punk Charming offers all of the elements of a classic romance novel, with an irresistible modern twist. This beautifully written debut novel marks an auspicious beginning for Laura Quinn’s career.