I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Where the Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Where the Rhythm Takes You, Reyna has been helping run her family’s hotel in Tobago since her mother died a couple years ago. She had once dreamed of being an artist, but knows that this is where she is needed. Then, one day, her summer is upended when Aiden—her childhood best friend and first love—returns from America. He’s been gone for two years, and has since made a name for himself as an up and coming musician. And along with him, the memories of everything Reyna used to love come rushing back. The only question—how is she going to deal with this, especially with Aiden and his friends as VIPs at her hotel?
This is a modern reimagining of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, but since I’ve never read that one, I can’t speak to its loyalty, but this was a fun book!
Reyna is a strong protagonist who has great characterization and decent development over time. She is complex, kind and selfless but sometimes also judgemental and impulsive. I really liked reading about her journey. The other characters were good too, especially Aiden, Fish, and Eliza. There are quite a few characters with various connections to each other (very Austen, for sure), but they’re all pretty distinct. And, bonus, there’s some pretty decent banter, especially between Reyna and Fish, which is always my weakness.
I liked seeing the progression of Reyna’s relationship with Aiden, as well as her changing feelings toward what she is doing with her life. It’s well paced and well presented, a good mix of reflecting on the past and wondering about the future. While the romance isn’t very head-over-heels, I appreciated that overall it’s pretty mature. The two of them aren’t petty, both are decent and respectful, and all around cute together. Sure, there are some misunderstandings and imperfect communication, but it’s very typically Austen.
In the end, Where the Rhythm Takes You is an entertaining debut novel, with a gorgeous setting, many wonderful characters, and some touching ideas about duty and passion. This is both a clever homage to Jane Austen and a celebration of Tobagonian life and culture. I’ve never read a book set on this particular island, and I loved the glimpse given here. This will be a great summer read if you’re looking for a sweet, happy romance!
Overall rating: 8.5/10
Where the Rhythm Takes You will be published on May 11th, 2021!