I liked this a lot. It’s a way outside my usual genres of fantasy and science fiction, but it’s well written and contains an unusual idea. Semi-Scottish Tristan is a successful man in lots of ways, but after a string of unhappy relationships, and after attending far too many weddings, he gets the idea that having a child would help him feel the bond with someone else he truly craves.
How he goes about this, and the relationships that pushed him towards this decision, are the bulk of the story and it never quite turns out how you’d expect. I soon warmed to Tristan as he negotiated this difficult decision, finding the titular ‘surrogate’ in an unlikely place. It’s a fast paced read, and I really got a clear sense of the Edinburgh setting along with the Scottish accents that felt absolutely right as they were written.
The flashbacks were a little too numerous, but it worked in the overall structure of the story. It’s a domestic drama but one shown entirely through Tristan’s eyes, a male POV on the subject of adoption, which I feel is an unusual viewpoint. I liked the initially fearsome surrogate and everyone’s fairly realistic response to Tristan’s decision.
I was drawn in by the style and eager to stay to the end. Liked this very much, and hope to read more books by CJ Evans in the future.
A FEW SPOILERS BELOW
Smallest thing, but Tristan’s answer to raising the child did seem to be to get a nanny in to do almost all of the actual child care, which is practical but felt slightly at odds with his emphasis on creating a bond with the child. Not that I think you can’t have a bond with a child with a nanny, it just felt to me as though he would have sacrificed more time, even taken a year or two off, to care for this baby he desperately wanted. This is just a personal feeling about the scene where he talks about childcare, although it does show how clueless Tristan is at first. On this note, I liked how Marie, the surrogate, soon made sure he understood what was involved in bringing up kids, and she was a wonderful character, prickly but warm-hearted and very sensible.
In fact, it’s possible everyone ended up being a little bit TOO nice by the end, which leaves a warm feeling nonetheless. Hut that’s another personal preference. No villains here, unusually. Perhaps in the next book? Otherwise, an excellent story.