Dan and the Exmoor Housewife

Book: Ellie and the Harp Maker

Author: Hazel Prior

Pages: 323

Genre: Romance

Rating: 9/10

Who should read this book: unconventional romance fans, if you know someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

First, thank you to Penguin Canada for sending me a copy of this book.

Ellie and the Harp Maker is about a 30 something Brit named Ellie Jacobs, that has been letting life carry her for quite some time. She’s married to a very controlling man named Clive. He seems to love her, he dotes on her and insists that she stay home and keep the house and he will make all the money. But she tip toes around him a lot making sure he doesn’t get angry. Ellie doesn’t realize there’s anything wrong with her life until she meets Dan. Once day she’s out exploring the moors and she sees a lane that looks like a road. She drives down and finds the Harp Barn. Inside is a handsome 30 something man making the most beautiful harps Ellie has ever seen. As Ellie talks to Dan, she realizes there’s something different about him. He’s very literal and seems to be unable to lie. The other rather strange thing about Dan is that the day he meets Ellie he gifts her a beautiful Celtic harp. She says as she’s admiring the harps that learning to play an instrument is on her list of things to do before 40. So Dan says that she must take one and learn to play it. She tries to say no but he insists so she puts it in her car. When she gets it home, her husband doesn’t understand how she got a free harp worth $1000’s and insists she return it. He won’t let her keep it. So she returns to Dan’s barn and tries to give back the harp, he says no, that if she doesn’t play it no one will and that she can keep it at the barn and come and play it whenever she wants.

Dan has autism, but he’s a “high-functioning ASD”. He has trouble with non verbal communication, he is extremely focused on harps but all sales and orders of the harps he makes are handled by his sister because he can’t do it. Dan has a very strict daily routine and spends most of his time alone. When he meets Ellie, he notices the colour of her socks are cherry and so she gets a cherry wood harp. Dan is a very literal person, he cannot lie, and he gives very precise answers to all questions.

As the story progresses, Ellie comes to care very much for Dan, she helps him discover some things about his life that people have kept a secret from him. It’s a rather unconventional love story but it has a happy ending.

Writing 2/2 points: Hazel Prior writes wonderful characters. I loved Dan, he’s written so well. It’s very clear that he is different but his quirks make him so loveable. Ellie starts out a little lost in life, but watching her figure herself out, and figure out what she wants to do, and make some important life decisions, is really refreshing. When she meets Dan, a series of events is set into motion that will change her life forever, if she has the strength to accept a new life. She’s been going through the motions with blinders on and Dan helps her take them off.

Plot 2/2 points: The book is called Ellie and the Harp Maker but it should have been called Dan and the Exmoor Housewife. Because this book is all about Dan. Ellie and Dan are both narrating, they alternate each chapter, but Dan is the narrator I want more of the whole time. The story is really about how Ellie helps Dan make some realizations about his life and the people in it. He comes to understand that people have been keeping things from him fearing that he won’t be able to handle it. But Ellie understands Dan better, and thinks he can handle it if it’s presented to him properly. Dan also helps Ellie realize her marriage to Clive is not healthy but it takes a long time.

Hook 2/2 points: I’m not normally a fan of romance books that include infidelity. However, the way this book starts makes it pretty clear that Ellie and Dan aren’t going to be lovers, at least not right away. I jumped to that conclusion early and when it didn’t happen immediately, I was definitely hooked. As the book progressed I found myself wishing Ellie would leave Clive and Dan would realize he has feelings for Ellie.

Twist 2/2 points: The last 100 pages of the book, shit hits the fan and it’s very intense! The twist was completely unexpected and insanely amazing. I flew through the pages freaking out wondering what was going to happen.

Feel 1/2 points: I loved this book and it’s love story but when it ended I found myself wanting more. I wish there had been a prologue or a chapter that was 10 years later or something. So the book lost one point from me because I wanted more. Hazel Prior if you’re writing a sequel, please let me know!

Happy Reading!

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