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Feature book: Driving in Neutral

8 April 2015

Driving in NeutralDriving in Neutral by Sandra Antonelli

Olivia Regen is an ex-racing car and test driver in her forties, with two unsuccessful marriages. She’s about to start a new job translating German for an animation company. Her latest ex-husband, whose marital indiscretion made phenomenal YouTube viewing, has left her spotlight shy and wary of men.

Emerson Maxwell, executive, forty-eight and majorly claustrophobic, is a geek with an athlete’s body. He remade himself after his divorce, through exercise and Italian suits, and tends to be a bit of a ‘playa’ with the ladies and yells abuse at all his employees.

It’s an interesting meeting for Olivia and Emerson. Due to a knee injury, Emerson needs to take the elevator to work rather than use the stairs, even though he’s claustrophobic. Olivia, who has just been literally drenched by a thunderstorm on her way to her new translating job, is in the lift with Emerson when the power goes out between floors. Emerson panics and Olivia tries unsuccessfully to talk him down. She resorts to kissing Emerson to jolt him out of his rising hysteria and a farcical situation arises with the restart of the elevator.

The relationship between Olivia and Emerson provides an emotional roller coaster; Emerson is unlikeable till about 70% of the way through the book. He says all the wrong things and he is obnoxious to his staff, but the characters in the story keep insisting he’s a great guy and that he wears a suit well and is very handsome (you can look good in a suit and still be an ass). On the other hand, Olivia is a really enjoyable character until she locks Emerson in a dark pantry. It’s completely understandable that she reaches her breaking point and goes bunny-boiler, but she is so deliberately cruel (to Emerson) that it seems somewhat out of character for her.

This was a good story, the adversarial relationship between Olivia and Emerson kept the book hopping along. Much is made of Olivia’s love of Emerson’s hairy chest, which, if you don’t like hirsute men, is off putting, but if you do, you’ll appreciate. Olivia, as a mid-forties heroine, was a pleasurable change and the Emerson contradiction as a geek transformed into hunky ‘playa’ at forty-eight was a nice touch. It’s an enjoyable read but beware of the abrupt ending (the gesture by Emerson is considerable but it left me flipping ebook pages thinking I’d missed something).

Reviewed by Gina

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.



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