Brake Failure

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Brake Failure is a silly story about a British woman who has to move to Kansas for her husband’s work and learns to love it.

The novel follows Ruby Mortimer-Smyth’s transformation from uppity housewife to booze-swilling free spirit. Ruby dreams of living in Paris and marries her husband, a wealthy marketing executive, with the hopes that his job will eventually take her there. Instead, Edward’s work takes the newlyweds to Kansas, which Ruby hates.

The story is set in 1999, and Ruby, a hypochondriac, worries over everything from the spots on her nails to the Y2K bug. Eventually, she forms friendships with the women in her small town, hangs out with a biker gang, writes product descriptions for a cosmetics company, grows attached to a dog named Rowdy, visits bars, writes poetry for the local paper, goes fishing and hunting, and generally assimilates with town life. Edward retains his stiff, particular demeanor, wanting Ruby to immerse herself in home making while he works, and he eventually suggests having children, which Ruby doesn’t want. The couple slowly grows apart over the course of the novel as Ruby grows more independent and learns to love herself. A few revelations are made about Ruby’s parentage, which I thought could have been more deeply developed.

Chapters about Ruby’s life are occasionally interrupted with scenes from a bank robbery investigation. I don’t want to spoil this part of the story, but Ruby’s life in Kansas and the scenes from the bank robbery investigation eventually intersect, and the result is humorous and refreshing.

I had a hard time at the story’s beginning because I really disliked Ruby. I found her to be an insufferable character, marrying for money and not love and constantly sniping with her pretentious and equally, if not more, insufferable sister, Claire. As the story continued and Ruby loosened up, I was thrilled at her growing self-confidence and carefree, albeit reckless, spirit.

This novel really turns the average modern romance on its head. Ruby has a few run-ins with one of the local cops, Hank. They are both attracted to each other in a sort of furious, destructive way, with Ruby committing small acts of vandalism and civil disobedience and Hank trying to correct her by sheer force of his machismo. Ruby is also attracted to Payat, the head of Weaver’s, a cosmetics company. Encounters with both men spell trouble for Ruby’s marriage. Hank is sort of an archetypal hometown good ol’ boy with an intensely masculine presence, as is common for modern heroes in many romance novels set in small towns. The only difference is Ruby turns out to be not the usual submissive romance heroine and rebuffs Hank’s advances on many occasions, despite the fact that he makes her feel weak-kneed and melty at times.

What could be a dour drag of a book about a woman’s life unraveling is instead comical, empowering, and lighthearted in the hands of author Alison Brodie. I’d love to see more from this author.

Reviewed By:

Star Count 5/5
Format eBook
Page Count 236 pages
Publisher Clipboard Press
Publish Date 2017-Jan-09
ISBN 9780995456822 Buy this Book
Issue January 2017
Category Romance


  1. baz

    Made me laugh all the way through plus I loved the character quirks and the way the story moved from past to present. It covered a period of recent history you never hear much about and I found that really interesting.

  2. jJanice Pym

    I’ ve been waiting eagerly for the publication of this new book by Alison Brodie ~ and I have not been disappointed!
    It’s full of action, humour and twists of plot, and like all good books, the many varied settings provide an interesting and colourful backdrop.
    If you are looking for a book to bring some action, excitement , humour and romance into your reading then this is most definitely the one for you!

  3. jJanice Pym

    I’ve been waiting eagerly for the publication of this new book by Alison Brodie ~ and I havent been disappointed.
    It’s full of action, humour and twists of plot, and like all good books the many varied settings provide an interesting and colourful backdrop.
    If youre looking for a book to chase away those winter blues then this is the one for you.

  4. Lauren Sapala

    Absolutely loved this story. Addictive, page-turning, and just pure fun. I also really loved the Y2K element as I lived in the Midwest at the time and remember the panic over it well. This is a great book for romance fans, adventure fans, and anyone who loves a story that hooks you in from the first page.

  5. Alison Daughtrey-Drew

    So with a name like Ruby Mortimer-Smyth you’d expect a high class upstart wouldn’t you! Ruby is one of those awesome British characters who displays one image yet is so quirky, bizarre and reckless you can’t help but be intrigued with what might lie beneath.

    She was abandoned by her mother, grew up with a stepmother and stepsister who she was in competition with from the age of eight .. little Miss Perfect (the role her mama bestowed on her) kinda missed the instruction memo on how to behave lol.

    Ruby is a total hypochondriac, married to Edward for status rather than love it seems. Desperate for him to get the job in Paris so her oneup-manship over her sister can be gloated upon … all appears to be going well until in fact Ruby and Edward locate to Kansas!! OMG she couldn’t believe it, how embarrassing. The locals all thought she had insider knowledge on the queen .. they certainly weren’t the sort she could possibly be friends with or could she?

    Yet from the outset she tangles with Sheriff Hank Gephart and he ignites her rebellious nature. Hank tolerates an awful lot from Ruby and the sexual tension is obvious. But Ruby refuses to consider being nice to a country hick like him especially when she spots Payat, an Indian chief who works with her hubby. She idolises his desirable attributes and plans a future on the reservation, as if living in a wigwam is any better than Kansas!

    Ruby is very much a lady of two souls, at times I felt for her and wanted to give her a hug, other moments I was screeching at her stupidity.

    This story is set in the lead up to the year 2000 and the events that happen on NYE .. it then time-slips to tell Ruby and Hank’s life until a conclusion is reached. When there is a bank robbery and a shooting involved you know it won’t be a straightforward love story, this is uniquely different, rom-com at it’s best with a sneaky twist.

    When I first started reading I was a little confused with the way time jumped back/forth and found it a bit disconcerting until I got into the swing of it (in fact the author explained all the pieces are like a jigsaw until it all falls into place and that suddenly clicked in my mind) once I was in I was hooked.

    A rip roaring, rollercoaster ride of humour and disbelief at some of Ruby’s antics. By the end I was willing her to behave and let life slow to a ‘normal’ pace so she could catch up. A fabulous bunch of characters, I just loved the interactions between Ruby and her newfound friends. And if you don’t grin at the Mr. Frosty incident then you obviously have never had noisy neighbours!

    Attach your seatbelt and take the ride of your life .. you won’t regret it. Brilliantly written and thoroughly enjoyed.

    I voluntarily read and reviewed this book, thanks to Alison and Neverland Blog Tours . I don’t hesitate to give it 5 sparkly stars.

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