Sunday, 22 December 2019

#CBR11 Book 90: "The Flatshare" by Beth O'Leary

Page count: 336 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Official book description:
Tiffy Moore and Leon Twomey each have a problem and need a quick fix.

Tiffy’s been dumped by her cheating boyfriend and urgently needs a new flat. But earning minimum wage at a quirky publishing house means that her choices are limited in London.

Leon, a palliative care nurse, is more concerned with other people’s welfare than his own. Along with working night shifts looking after the terminally ill, his sole focus is on raising money to fight his brother’s unfair imprisonment.

Leon has a flat that he only uses 9 to 5. Tiffy works 9 to 5 and needs a place to sleep. The solution to their problems? To share a bed of course...

As Leon and Tiffy’s unusual arrangement becomes a reality, they start to connect through Post-It notes left for each other around the flat.

Can true love blossom even in the unlikeliest of situations?
Can true love blossom even if you never see one another?
Or does true love blossom when you are least expecting it?

This is one of those books that I saw on a lot of "Must Read" lists earlier this year, and I will not be surprised if it's on quite a few of the best of the year lists for various review sites either. As contemporary romances go, it has an unusual premise. The two protagonists don't even end up in the same room together until more than halfway through the book (and what a scene it is!). Initially, Leon has a girlfriend, not that he seems all that into her. She's the one who insists on handling all the rental stuff with Tiffy, not entirely comfortable with her boyfriend sharing not just his flat, but his actual bedroom and bed (Tiffy and Leon agree to sleep on separate sides of the bed). The agreement is also that Leon stays with his girlfriend during the weekends, so Tiffy can have the flat.

Tiffy has a toxic ex-boyfriend, Justin, and two extremely supportive best friends, Mo and Gerty. They both clearly utterly hated Justin and are willing to help her with money if it means she has a safe place to stay. Tiffy doesn't exactly make a lot of money in the first place, and has even less, since her ex is insisting she pay him back a bunch of money as well. Hence she ends up with the rather unusual rental arrangement, while merrily going about her job, trying not to think about her former boyfriend (although he does seem to pop up now and again, in all sorts of strange coincidences).  It takes Tiffy months and months to realise just how controlling, manipulative, emotionally abusive and gas lighting Justin was, and she falls apart a bit when she finally does start remembering all the things her brain conveniently shut away.

While Leon's girlfriend seems to be impatiently waiting for him to resign himself to the fact that his brother Richie is in prison now, and won't be getting out, so he can work less and spend more time with her. Once Leon realises that she doesn't, in fact, believe that Richie was wrongfully accused, that's pretty much it for their relationship. He still keeps finding other places to stay during the weekends, though, so Tiffy can have the flat.

In contrast, Tiffy is wholly convinced of Richie's innocence, having spoken to him early in her stay in the flat, and later having corresponded with him. She convinces one of her two BFFs, a very successful criminal lawyer, to look into the case, which seems to have been pretty badly mismanaged by

While the two roommates never meet, they draw conclusions about the other based on what they find around the flat, and they keep leaving Post-It notes (at first one or two, soon a whole load) to communicate. As the months pass, they have long conversations via Post-It. They get to know each other's likes and dislikes and become friends, even though they've never met. Then, once they finally do, there is definitely a spark there, but Tiffy has a lot of emotional healing left to do, and Leon has far too much experience with toxic relationships thanks to his mother's dating history to try anything with a woman who's fully ready.

This was a fast read for me, and while it had some pacing issues, the alternate chapters from Tiffy and Leon's points of view allow the reader to get to know them both really well. The conceit of their communicating via Post-Its makes it almost strange when you realise how long they go without actually meeting face to face.

While the emotional abuse story line, complete with gas lighting and manipulation seemed entirely believable, as did Tiffy's gradual realisation of what she'd gone through, I'm not sure I found Justin's increasingly more crazy antics towards the end of the book all that convincing. This felt like an overly complicated way to create extra tension in Tiffy and Leon's beginning romantic relationship and I did not care for it.

I really haven't read all that many romances that fully entertained me and that I would wholeheartedly recommend this year, but I really liked this book, and will be keeping an eye out for whatever Beth O'Leary does next. Fingers crossed she becomes another Lucy Parker.

Judging a book by its cover: There seems to be a growing trend in cutesy cartoony romance covers at the moment. I like this one because it doesn't feel cartoony or overly cute, but rather elegant. If anything, the painted characters feel almost too simplistic. I'm not sure I would have picked it up in a bookstore based on the cover alone.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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