When you combine wardrobes and teacups, good things are inevitable, and Can’t Help Falling is proof of that. This beautifully written book is the second novel by New Zealand author Kara Isaac. It will appeal to you if you enjoy a hearty dose of fairy-tale romance, are a fan of the Chronicles of Narnia, or have ever found yourself, like I have, sitting in a wardrobe.
When a story she is working on results in tragedy, Emilia Mason turns her back on her career as a tabloid journalist and heads to Oxford, England. Here, she hopes to start afresh and put to right some of the wrongs from her reporting days. Emilia is a Narnia-nerd and, ever hopeful that one day she will, indeed, find Narnia, can’t resist climbing into wardrobes in search of the doorway to this magical land.
As she tumbles out of a wardrobe in an antique shop one snowy night, she falls right into the path of Peter Carlisle. After a shoulder injury forced him off the Great Britain rowing team, Peter, too, is hoping for a second chance, determined to make his way back to where he was so he can, once again, live his dream. He is also hoping to find a teacup, the very teacup he discovers on the floor of the wardrobe that Emilia falls out of. As their stories begin to intertwine, it seems that, perhaps, their second chances are not what they had in mind at all, and that, maybe, they were meant to find each other.
Like the C. S. Lewis classic series, there is a sense of the enchanted about this book. Isaac has expertly weaved the tales and themes in The Chronicles of Narnia into her own story, creating a bookish tapestry, full of literary references that will be appreciated by bookworms everywhere.
It is hard to believe that Isaac has never been to Oxford. I came away from this novel wanting to head right there, caught up in the magic and history and tradition of the place. Isaac has clearly done her research, not only into the picturesque locale, but also into rowing – which features surprisingly prominently in a book by an author who knew very little about it. Her descriptions and references to the sport seem spot on, and the rivalry between the two universities is just wonderful to read about it. It has certainly piqued my interest.
From Emilia, to Peter, to their friends, Jackson and Allie, the characters are likeable, layered and easy-to-imagine. Ever the romantic, the connection between the hero and heroine is tangible in a delightfully satisfying way. As they get to know each other, each bearing the burdens of their past and trying to heal their wounds, I couldn’t help holding my breath waiting for them to realise that they were meant to be together. I only wished Emilia could have been more honest with Peter earlier on. Their budding relationship also gives rise to some more serious and thought-provoking discussions of faith, adding an extra dimension to the romance and, in itself, very Lewis-esque. And, two Narnia-enthusiasts meeting as one tumbles out of a wardrobe in an antique store, it doesn’t get more charming than that! Better yet, it happens twice.
This is a book that swept me away a little – exactly what I like my books to do! Isaac writes a witty, unique, and inspiring novel that truly captures the heart. As I closed Can’t Help Falling, one question stuck with me: am I a Susan or a Lucy? I like to think that, probably, I’m a bit of both. Which are you?