While I don’t consider myself a true romance fan, I continue to dip my toes into the pool romantique occasionally. I like a good romance but it needs to have some oomph. Some substance. Some depth and deeper elements and not just be an endless series of romps between the sheets with cliched characters, a predictable plot and a damsel in distress. No sir. No ma’am. Not for this gal!
The Flatshare, the debut novel of Beth O’Leary, caught my eye as I perused WPL’s digital collection last week (quite a delightful way to spend some time!) It’s got a cute cover but it was the premise of two strangers, Tiffy and Leon, time-sharing a flat (and a bed) in London (one has the flat at night, one has it during the day) that piqued my interest.
Tiffy and Leon insist that through this agreement, never the twain shall meet … until they do. Kind of an oddball premise but it works and I thought it was cute how they initially communicate using post-it notes around their flat.
This is a sweet romance with a quirky couple but it’s got that little something more. Leon and Tiffy are the central characters and the story revolves around their individual journeys and how their relationship evolves over time. I loved the bumps they experience along the way and the secondary characters, particularly Tiffy’s protective squad of friends, who see her through the rough and rougher patches of her life. They added levity and often said (perhaps in different words) what I was thinking. I also liked how deeper issues, such as emotional abuse, obsession, long-term effects of abuse, gaslighting and standing up for oneself, were woven into the plot. These are heavy, emotional subjects and I appreciated that they weren’t slapped with quick fixes.
But, sadly, it wasn’t all roses and love notes. There is one wee thing that I didn’t love and that was the odd way Leon had of speaking where he regularly omitted pronouns. I think it was meant to make him quirky but it was an odd choice and was more off-putting and distracting than endearing.
Overall, this is a charming and ridiculously impressive debut that balances heart and depth and is sprinkled with occasional snippets of snark and British humour. If you want a romance with a little more zip and a unique cast of characters that give you that close-knit extended family feel, then you’ll want to pick up The Flatshare. I eagerly await O’Leary’s upcoming book, The Switch (set to pub August 2020).
— Laurie P.