Breaking Down Her Walls - Erin Zak
It changes constantly but right now, in this moment, I have a new favourite book, and it’s ‘Breaking Down Her Walls’ by Erin Zak. There are many reasons for this. In this essay…no, I’m kidding. But let me babble at you for a minute about this book.
The book is about Julia Finch who’s driving along a random highway in Colorado because, we find out, she’s running away from events in her past and so she’s built huge emotional walls to protect her heart. Her car dies at a teeny tiny town along this highway, so she’s pissed off, and the repair bill is bigger than the actual mechanic’s garage. So Julia is offered a job at the town’s ranch to pay off the repair bill. Julia is not impressed with this plan. But she rocks up at the ranch, and there’s gorgeous Elena Bennett who’s abrasive and judgemental and has huge emotional walls as well and Julia gets more pissed off. Anyway, she has to stay because of the car repair bill, and comes to love the ranch, the people, Colorado, horses, pretty much everything. The thing is? Can she and Elena bust down their own personal walls to actually see each other and find love?
This book is in present tense. I’m not a fan of present tense. I know that doesn’t sound promising for a review, but hear me out. Present tense has always sat awkwardly in my mind as I read. And I didn’t read this novel in one hit. I picked it up eight times. I know this because I had to reset my mind eight times into present tense each time I continued. But here’s the thing; it took only a sentence of Erin’s writing to drop me right back into the lives of Elena and Julia. One sentence. That’s it. Erin Zak writes in a way that had me sitting on a horse, at a ranch, looking at—checks Google maps—the Colorado mountains, and drawing me back into the story.
With one sentence, all you past-tense-passionates.
Here’s a demo: “She stumbles in through the screen door and realises that maybe she had a bit too much to drink because dammit, she miscalculates the distance from the door to the bench and just barely misses falling onto the floor.”
Here’s another thing: look at the length of that sentence. Isn’t it amazing? The writing is tight, like properly done up shoelaces, but loose enough to not cut off the circulation to your ankle, with long, looping, beautiful sentences that take you on a soft ride and deliver you to the full stop at the end. So good.
Now. Dialogue. Firstly, when they recognise their attraction to each other, Elena and Julia talk. To each other. Like adults who’ve seen the world or the world’s seen them. There’s no skipping about in circles. It’s a direct line of communication until they hit each other’s walls. Hugely, insurmountable walls, built from years of heart ache, heart break and a lot of life just being life.
The other aspect of the dialogue is that the characters riff off each other, and through this we get to understand who they are.
The main characters of Julia and Elena are fabulous. Elena, as ranch owner, is all levels of gorgeous and amazing and just…damn! And you know that plant that you find growing wild in your lawn that has been neglected for ages and you think there’s no chance it’ll survive but you water it and give it fertiliser and talk to it when no-one is watching, otherwise people think you’re a bit bonkers? That’s Julia. She’s that plant. The ranch, the people, the very air become Julia’s fertiliser. And Erin Zak doesn’t take Julia to that place quickly. She makes us invest—invest—in these people, dammit.
Let’s talk chemistry. The yummy version. Julia and Elena have a lot of it. A lot. There are a lot of trees in the Colorado mountains. It’s a wonder those two didn’t start a bushfire with the heat coming off both of them. And the sex scenes—yes, plural. Invest in air-conditioning in your house or wherever you read this book.
I’d never heard (as of 2020) of Erin Zak before this book (hangs head in shame), but I am rectifying that by logging onto Amazon, finding Erin’s books and pressing ‘Buy Now’. What a hypnotic button that is.
Go grab this book. It’s worth it.