Amongst the (possibly too many) books I asked for last Christmas was a rom-com by the author Beth O’Leary. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been diving into any fiction I can to escape the craziness of the world right now, so this was immediately bumped to the top of my list. After a mere five days, I’d finished The Flat Share and had found my new favourite author – it was a big week. Another week later, I’d read her other masterpiece, The Switch, and it was at this point that I decided I could stay quiet no longer. So, here are my reviews of the best two rom-coms I’ve read in a good old while.
The Flat Share
Image courtesy of @amazon.co.uk
This story follows Tiffy, a quirky book editor who has just been kicked out of her ex-boyfriend’s flat, and Leon, a quiet nurse looking for extra cash to help get his innocent brother out of prison. After Tiffy spots a newspaper ad for a flat share, which involves living in the same flat and sharing the same bed as the current owner but at different times of the day, she takes a leap of faith and moves in with a stranger: Leon. What makes this situation even weirder (if possible) is that they haven’t even met. And they don’t for an annoyingly long time. However, this doesn’t stop their friendship from blossoming, as they get to know each other through the notes they leave around the flat – it’s a modern love letter scenario. Then, when they finally meet, the flat share arrangement gets slightly more complicated as they realise this could be more than a friendship.
It’s a pure ‘opposites attract’ scenario. Tiffy is a bubbly, messy red head; Leon is quiet and reserved. But Tiffy has immediate, refreshing faith in Leon’s brother’s case, and Leon supports her with his gentle, patient manner while she comes to terms with the emotional abuse from her previous relationship, and deals with the obsessive ex-boyfriend. Whilst Tiffy boulsters Leon, giving him renewed belief in his brother’s future, Leon supports Tiffy with his gorgeous, understanding nature, making this the most uplifting, heart melting read. What makes it even better is how O’Leary switches between both characters’ narratives, so we get to see both perspectives on the blossoming, unexpected love story. The heavy yet important themes of emotional abuse and wrongful imprisonment are balanced with the solid friendship, trust and love that bursts out of the pages; this book is heartwarming, hilarious and just plain lovely.
Image courtesy of @amazon.co.uk
Over a year after the death of Leena’s sister and Eileen’s granddaughter, Carla, the Cotton family have been stumbling through life trying to deal with the grief. Then, during a trip from London to her Grandma’s village in the Yorkshire Dales, Leena decides that a fresh start is what they both need, and suggests a possibly crazy, possibly brilliant idea that changes the course of their lives forever. The narrative switches (pun intended) between 20-something Leena’s and 79-year-old Eileen’s perspectives as they embark on a crazy two-month-long life swap. Leena needs to face her mother, learn how to relax and allow herself to heal, and does this all whilst taking on her grandma’s projects in the village. She’s faced with the challenge of winning over the nosy, stubborn villagers, and gets pretty friendly with the laid back, charming primary school teacher, Jackson, along the way. Meanwhile, Eileen takes London by storm, throwing herself into the online dating scene, with the help of Leena’s friends, and living her dream in the city. But she also brings some lessons from village-life with her, teaching her new pals the importance of building a sense of community, especially in the middle of a busy city. But, after exploring London’s over-70 dating scene, Eileen begins to realise that maybe what she wants has been closer to home all this time…
The combination of a young woman’s perspective, typical of the rom-com genre, and that of her 79-year-old grandma, a not-so-typical addition, makes this story stand out. This fresh take on the genre opens up a whole new world, and I thoroughly enjoyed joining Eileen on her big-city escapades and watching her open up to dating again after so many years. O’Leary’s witty sense of humour gives this book a heartwarming charm, which of course made me want to re-read it just a few days after I’d first finished it! The intertwining of different generations reveals many differences which make for an interesting bunch of characters and lessons, including Leena’s refusal to mind her own business when she sees one of the elderly villagers silently suffering from domestic abuse and challenges the old-fashioned ways of the village. It’s an emotional journey watching the Cottons finding life after loss, but it’s beautiful all the same. So, this is another 10/10 recommendation from me!
Watch out for Beth O’Leary’s next book The Road Trip, out Spring 2021!
Words By: Olivia Flower
Edited By: Dasha Pitts-Yushchenko