The Happy Camper – Melody Carlson – Revell – Published 3 March 2020
Home is the place to heal, right? At least, that’s what Dillon Michaels is hoping as she leaves her disappointing career and nonstarter love life behind to help her grieving and aging grandfather on his small Oregon farm. The only problem? Her eccentric mother beat her there and has taken over Dillon’s old room. After a few nights sleeping on a sagging sofa, Dillon is ready to give up, until she receives an unlikely gift–her grandfather’s run-down vintage camp trailer, which she quickly resolves to restore with the help of Jordan Atwood, the handsome owner of the local hardware store.
But just when things are finally beginning to run smoothly, Dillon’s noncommittal ex-boyfriend shows up with roses . . . and a ring.
This is the second book I have read by Melody Carlson and I have now decided that her writing style is just not for me. As such, this review – as always – is an honest breakdown of my response to the book, but I realise that many people who do enjoy Carlson’s writing won’t find fault with the same issues I did. If this sort of thing is your style, then I am sure will enjoy what is a simple story of coming home, and falling in love.
Dillon leaves her boyfriend and her job on the same day. She is tired of hanging around waiting for Brandon to make her his number one priority and tired of catering to the whims of her boss. A phone call from her mother inspires her to return home to her grandfather’s farm. She doesn’t expect her eccentric mother to be there, and is a little upset when she is relegated to the lumpy couch. When her grandfather gives Dillon a run-down vintage camper trailer, Dillon puts her efforts into restoring it, and quite enjoys visiting the local hardware store to see the handsome, maybe-available owner, Jordan. When her boyfriend arrives in town begging for her to give him another chance, Dillon will have to choose between her old life and her new one.
The Happy Campers is a sweet and simple story. I enjoyed the parts where Dillon throws herself into renovating her camper van. She enjoys discovering new techniques, quite a bit of retail therapy and putting the finishing touches on her new home. Everything comes easy to her and for her (except maybe backing the van itself), so this part of the story doesn’t present any complications for the story.
I also really liked Dillon’s grandfather. He is a hard worker, very kind and understanding to both Dillon and her mother and has plenty of wisdom and all the right answers to share. Dillon is lucky to have his support.
Dillon’s relationship with her mother is shaky. Dillon moved in with her grandparents while she was growing up and found great support and stability away from her mother’s more transient lifestyle. Dillon doesn’t agree with her mother’s living arrangements, eating habits (if you enjoy kale smoothies and healthy food, prepare to have that made fun of quite a bit in this book) and tendency to start a project only to quickly drop it. Dillon judges that and yet she herself seems quite unreliable, leaving a job when her boss asks her to work, flipping from liking people to not liking them at all, and jumping between Brandon and Jordan really quickly.
The romance between Dillon and Brandon ends before we readers even get a chance to see why she would have spent 2 years with him and she moves on even faster. Dillon is quickly attracted to Jordan, but questions her feelings due to a response during a swimming lesson she is giving to his nieces and what appears to be an ongoing flirtation between him and another women (who Dillon starts of liking and quickly moves to dislike). As a result, Dillon says she is done with Brandon but continues to dance, dine and converse with Brandon. It’s juvenile and a little silly really, and aside from a few renovation projects, Dillon and Jordan don’t get much time to spend with each other, leaving the romance feeling surface-level at best.
The book finished much more quickly than I anticipated, and there wasn’t time for a few plot threads to be concluded, like Dillon’s unknown work future. Dillon does find some common ground with her mother, but the depths of their relationship (or anything else in this book) are never explored.
If you like quick, light-hearted and fun books, then The Happy Camper might be just what you are looking for.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Adult fiction
Genre: Christian – contemporary.
Themes: Romance, renovations, restoration, camper vans, mother-daughter relationships, unemployment.
Published: 3 March 2020 by Revell
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. 336 pages.