Today I finished California Holiday, brought to us by Kate Cann, author of Spanish Holiday and Grecian Holiday. Before I go on, though, I must say, SPOILER ALERT! Awhile back I promised I'd start sounding that alarm, and I've finally decided to make good on it.
Offbeat and frothy, California Holiday is the story of Rowan (nice name, huh?) and her escape from the boredom of England, her parents, and college. Taking the advice of a friend, she signs on with a nanny agency and accepts a job in Seattle. As one may predict, Rowan arrives in the States with her sites set on glamour and adventure but is blindsided by the proverbial family from hell. The mom is a demanding, cheapskate workaholic, the dad is a lecherous drunk, and Rowan's room is a closet with no way out save through her four-year-old charge's room. Rowan's only confidante is the dad's pet iguana, Iggy, who endures a caged existence on the roof deck. Unfortunately, hanging out with Ig means hanging out with the creepazoid dad. He inevitably makes a move on Rowan, then tells her that the wife is planning to have Iggy put down. Both incidents are enough to send Rowan packing in the dead of night, the caged and concealed Iggy in hand as she boards a Greyhound bus in search of a better life for her (hotel work) and Iggy (wide open spaces).
Almost immediately she meets a too-handsome-to-be-true guy about her age who says he can get her a job at the hotel where he works. His name is Landon, and he's pretty shifty. I'm fairly sure he's going to steal from Rowan or abandon her or something, but he surprises me by securing her a hotel nanny gig as promised. Even so, his suspect behavior persists as he smarmily tries to get her into bed. Gaga for this beautiful stranger, it's what Rowan wants too - just not yet. So, Rowan and Landon set up in separate rustic lakefront huts provided by the hotel. The nanny job turns out to be more of a preschool teacher position that requires Rowan to supervise art projects, then return for the eight to midnight shift to monitor children in their hotel rooms via baby cams while their parents party down. It seems a grueling, gloomy existence (and certainly one that would send this reader screaming), but Rowan quickly earns the respect of her no-nonsense boss and the friendship of her colleagues. As for Landon, the games with him continue, heightened by the return of his old flame. By this point, I'm certain than Rowan will finish out the summer and then return home to England, wiser for her experiences, but ultimately realizing that home is where she belongs. Kind of like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, minus the flying monkeys. Such a prediction probably comes from reading too many similar stories but also from filtering the plot through my own personal lens. Which is to say I would have been homesick after providing nanny services and iguana safe houses on another continent. But then, I probably wouldn't have taken off on such an odyssey in the first place.
What actually happens is this. Rowan quits nanny job number two and hightails it to Mexico, where Iggy can really roam free. Landon is devastated to find Rowan gone and follows her to Mexico where he, she, and Iggy live happily ever after. It's implied that Rowan may return to England to go to college, but also that she may not.
So much for my predictions.
California Holiday was fun to read, though. It put me in mind of mangoes and umbrella drinks and shell-encrusted surfs. Not a bad place to be on the far edge of winter.