*This review will contain spoilers!*
First things first I need to say a huge thank you to Patchwork Press, for accepting my request to review this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.
'Change has never done me any favors--mostly because I've never tried it-- so I don't know why I imagined that tonight would be any different.'
I was only involved with the release day blitz for Eliza Boyd's debut novel yesterday - but I absolutely flew through this book, so I've already finished it! Following Chelsea Greer, an (un)happily married woman, through her 'One Chance Night' - in which she takes a chance and heads to a bar with a work colleague and her roommate, two women she hardly knows, despite the fact that her husband would go crazy knowing she was sneaking out of the house while he spent time with his friends. While on this night out, she meets mystery man Brett, who recognises the fact that she isn't happy and takes it upon himself to help her talk through her problems and decide what changes to make with her life - and whether to take a chance on the possibility of true love...
The premise of 'One Chance Night' kind of reminded me of the idea behind Gayle Forman's 'Just One Day' (which, admittedly, I haven't read yet - but it's one of those books that is very high up my TBR!) and I was interested in reading a novel entirely set in Chelsea's evening, but I was worried it was going to get a little stale.
Surprisingly, it didn't! The first half was well developed and perfectly set up Chelsea's back story, letting us see inside her life with Wesley - her loveless and passionless relationship, Wesley subtly manipulating her with abusive comments which she tries her hardest not to retaliate to. When Chelsea gets invited out by a friend at work, she automatically disregards it, believing that Wesley would be angry if she went out, showing just how debilitated her self possession is by this man who is supposed to love her. You can't resist feeling completely empathetic towards Chelsea, who finds herself in a marriage she doesn't want with no friends and her parents over the other side of the world.
When Chelsea meets Brett in the bar at the open mic night, her nervous disposition also made me feel so bad for her - even just harmless joking around has her flinching in case he verbally reprimands her. This might have been more effective if we'd seen some more of Wesley's behaviour towards her in the past - all we have to go off of are her recollections and anecdotes, but we don't actually get to experience any of his harsh words or the actions verging on violence, meaning it seems a bit sudden when she starts flinching and reacting terribly.
The only complaints I have about 'One Chance Night' can all be equated down to the length of the novel. First off, the fact that we don't get to see as much of Chelsea and Wesley's back story as I would have ideally liked - because we only get the one side of the story, it could almost seem like she was an unreliable narrator, over-exaggerating her troubled past to woo a guy in a bar. I know this isn't the truth, but when you combine that with the fact that she took her wedding ring off before going out with friends...
Secondly, the jump between the one night and the eight months later just seems a bit too harsh. We find out that Chelsea and Wesley have divorced after having a long talk about their relationship and the reasons why she left him, but this is reported to us rather than us getting to see it. It would have been a lot more intriguing to see the exchange between them and how it played out, and I think one of Eliza Boyd's strongest aspects of writing is definitely in dialogue, so I would have preferred to see her make full use of this talent. I understand that it was meant to be a harsh change to show exactly how much Chelsea changed in the time, but it made her decision to go after Brett at the end seem quite unfounded - it would have been stronger if we'd seen her thinking about him and wondering after him when her and Wesley had finally confirmed their split and she'd moved out to face the big wide world on her own.
However, despite the fact that there were some issues with the length of the novel, overall I did really enjoy it. Eliza Boyd crafts brilliant characters, and I loved the constant referencing of country songs (some that I knew, some that I didn't, but all that I've written down to listen to as a playlist!) because it is a really under-appreciated genre, and definitely one that specialises in the storytelling aspect of lyric writing, lending itself perfectly to this kind of inspiration. For a first novel this was definitely successful - Eliza took a serious topic and dealt with it in a sensitive way, and I'm sure that if any readers are in this situation themselves it will definitely make them consider their options more fully, which is definitely a positive thing. If you're in the mood for a more serious contemporary, I'd definitely suggest this one - it can't be called light-hearted, because it deals with very heavy topics and conversations, but it's very well written and the characters will stick in your head.
I'm rather excited for the second novel in the Take A Chance series, 'Two Pink Lines', which is briefly set up at the end of 'One Chance Night' - this sounds like it's going to be a companion series quite similar to the 'Anna and the French Kiss' series by Stephanie Perkins (but NA, obviously) and I'm looking forward to it - getting to see what happens in Chelsea's future, but also getting to experience another story will be a great way to keep the series alive.