The Sun Still Rises, by Laura Bailo
Collection: World of Love
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: May 17, 2017
Erik’s father lived for Pamplona’s yearly festival and the running of the bulls. Now he’s gone, and Erik flies to Pamplona on a whim to see the festival his father loved—without booking a room first. He’s looking at sleeping on the ground until friendly David from the tourism office offers to share his home.
When Erik realizes he trusts David, that he might even be willing to face his anxiety to get to know David better, he begins to understand what this trip could mean. Pamplona is even more beautiful when seen through David’s eyes, and Erik might have traveled around the world just to find himself. But can he hold on to his newfound confidence—and to David—when it’s time to go home?
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The Sun Still Rises was a sweet romance set in Pamplona, Spain, but even its exciting backdrop of the famous running of the bulls was not quite enough to sweep me off my feet.
I was excited when I heard that this release was part of Dreamspinner’s World of Love collection because I knew of the author’s deep abiding love for her hometown. There were many references to the San Fermín Festival and a lot of details on the running of the bulls but that aside, I do admit that I struggled to get a bigger picture of the city itself. This was especially disappointing because David, Erik’s love interest and tour guide, was eager to show him that there was more to Pamplona than its famous annual festival-slash-sporting event.
From Erik’s arrival into the city to his long walks with David, I personally wished there were more detailed descriptions of his surroundings. Seeing as the story was written in his third-person POV and this was Erik’s first trip to Spain (possibly even his first time overseas), I found myself constantly wishing to see more reaction to the sights and sounds and smells that most travelers tend to notice when they visit a foreign land. Maybe his anxiety prevented him from taking in the newness of his surroundings, or he’d seen enough photos from his dad’s trips that actually being there in the flesh didn’t really make an impression on him. He was also very focused on following directions and getting from Point A to Point B when he first arrived, so that might explain the lack of first impressions when he rolled into town. But I personally would have enjoyed more details as he walked down “narrow” streets or past “beautiful” houses or wish I knew what he meant when he mentioned seeing “normal” shops.
I also think that for me, seeing the city through Erik’s eyes would’ve really strengthened the idea that he was connecting with his dad’s memory through this trip. He was very focused on running with the bulls (which admittedly was what his dad loved to do) but I couldn’t help but think it was odd that he spent most of his very brief time there cooped up in David’s home out in the suburbs. Overall, I really liked the sentiment behind his spontaneous pilgrimage, but I did wish I’d felt more of his deeply personal journey. Such as it were, I had difficulty believing that our hero – a shy, highly anxious and painfully introverted fantasy writer who seldom left the comfort of his home – not only travelled to Pamplona on a whim during its most hectic week of the year, but did it without a lick of research or reservations. For most of the book, I struggled to connect with Erik and found him oddly abrasive and entitled, especially in contrast to sweet and gentle David.
I think the shorter format did not do their blossoming love affair any favors as the development of their relationship felt rushed. A whirlwind romance can often be exciting – and to the author’s credit, their attraction did not feel like instalust – but I had a difficult time adjusting to their “boyfriend” status after only a few days together. However, I did appreciate the manner in which they inevitably parted ways, and I especially thought the epilogue was a lovely way of showing Erik coming full circle in his journey towards happiness.
The novella was short and mostly well written, but it just wasn’t for me. However, I think the author showed promised and I would not be opposed to reading more of her work in the future.
Laura Bailo is a veterinarian and a teacher in training who can do surgical sutures but can’t sew on a button to save her life.
She lives in Spain with far too many books and boxes full of notebooks. She loves exploring the narrow streets of Pamplona and she’s known to have gotten lost in her own city. She loves reading, singing and trying out new cooking recipes, and if she’s feeling adventurous she may try to do all of these at the same time.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.