May 7 2013 4:30pm

First Look: Suzanne Carroll’s Over the Edge (May 9, 2013)

Over the Edge by Suzanne CarrollSuzanne Carroll
Over the Edge
Writer's Coffee Shop / May 9, 2013 / $18.99 print

In six weeks Zoe Harper will marry Dan Costi in an over-the-top Sydney society wedding, complete with fire-eaters and belly dancers. But when she receives an unexpected gift from her future mother-in-law, Zoe realises she’s making a huge mistake. In a blazing sidewalk argument, she breaks up with her fiance, and his mother—who has joined the fight via conference call.

In six weeks Angus is supposed to lead the opening waltz at a charity ball in New York City. Only problem is, the handsome billionaire construction magnate with the tabloid past can’t dance. Not one step. Tainted by gossip and with a well-publicised failed engagement behind him, Angus has become a master at keeping an emotional distance. Until he meets Zoe.

What starts as dancing lessons, slowly becomes something more. Angus begins to let down his guard and open his heart, even when his past makes an unexpected and unwelcome return. As Zoe discovers the real man behind the headlines, she questions where her new choices are taking her. Her goals look good on paper, but are they what she really wants? And by the time she realises where her heart lies, will it be too late?

Suzanne Carroll’s debut novel, Over the Edge, is a lovely combination of subgenres: call it humorous chick lit, with elements of women’s fiction, and a charming romance plot that weaves throughout.

Heroine Zoe Harper’s first person narration is compulsively readable, both realistic and light-hearted. Hero Angus Creed, a billionaire construction magnate, is realistic as well, something which might surprise readers used to the cold, distant alpha billionaire figure so common in romance. That isn’t to say Angus couldn’t be called an alpha hero; he rules his company firmly and wisely while making it clear decisions and responsibility are on his shoulders. He’s a good contrast to Zoe, who’s still trying to find her place in the world.

What I enjoyed most about the novel, however, was not the romance between Zoe and Angus, but the events that led up to it, which are vital to the story. Their romance is much more emotionally satisfying because it’s compared to the disaster of what came before.

When the novel opens, Zoe seems to have just come out of a romance plot; she’s about to marry an attentive, well-off lawyer, Dan Costi, in a huge wedding. Unfortunately, the fairy tale is really a dystopia that is swallowing Zoe up. Despite her best efforts, Zoe has repeatedly been excluded from her own wedding plans, which are being orchestrated by her fiance’s mother, Marie. The situation is both awful and funny, ringing true on many levels.

Where to start? I could go back two years to the first time I met Marie Costi and she complimented my shoes then told me her maid had a pair just like them—last season. Or a year later, on the night Dan and I announced our engagement and she smiled and said as long as her son was happy she really didn’t mind. Or three months ago when I was excluded from his parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary dinner because it was for “family only.”

…The other girl is Sarah, our wedding planner from Charlton Webb Events. We’ve spent the last hour together in her office going over more details for the Dan Costi—Zoe Harper wedding extravaganza next month, including the emailed list of changes requested by Mrs. Costi that I’d known nothing about.

The last straw is when she’s forced into giving up the dream she’s been holding to for her marriage—a house they can share—which really means finally giving up her choices entirely to Dan and his mother. She realizes she wants out. Even before she’s met Angus Creed, Zoe compares his background to Dan’s, and finds Dan wanting.

Life has always been a free ride for Dan. His parents paid his university fees, his gap year overseas, his first car, the apartment he lives in. His lawyer father got him his job. Why would he want to start paying his own way? It will always be this way. He’s almost thirty -three and he’s still depending on his parents. And when I question it or want something different, he lashes out. I think of the teaching degree I left unfinished and the jobs I worked to keep a roof over my mother’s head, and mine. I think of my company CEO and how he built an empire from so little. They’re the same age, Dan and Angus Creed, and though I don’t expect an empire, I do expect a man who can stand on his own feet, someone I can respect. So many things from the past two years begin to take on a new significance. Little things I ignored, or thought were cute, ring alarm bells now.

When Zoe breaks free of the Costis once and for all, it’s immensely gratifying. And after that, it’s even more gratifying to enjoy her growing relationship with Angus and all the possibilities of her future.

Learn more about or pre-order a copy of Over the Edge by Suzanne Carroll before its May 9 release:

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Victoria Janssen is the author of three novels and numerous short stories. She also reads a lot. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.

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