What thoughts could possibly permeate your brain at every single moment of the person you have never met but whom you share a flat with–let alone a bed with? Does it not feel strange? Do thoughts of how your flatmate looks like in real life ever pop in your head? Or do you simply not care at all as long as the rent is justifiable and the binding rules suit you?
Gloriously funny and infinitely adorable: these are the words I conclusively describe Beth O’Leary’s romance novel, “The Flatshare”. The usual premise of a contemporary romance novel is downright unambiguous from girl meets boy, girl falls in love with the boy, girl loses the boy, then loose ends are patched up, setting the pace for the predictably happy ending. The plot may be linear, familiar, and cliched but these are the elements that make romance novels so popular among readers. But what compels readers to romcom novels like “The Flatshare” is not the discernible ending but the humorous (zingers-wise) and engaging journey that brought the fated characters together.
Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.
But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window
The story introduces us to Tiffany Moore, an assistant book editor who was out looking for an affordable flat after she decided to move out of the one she shared with her cheating ex-boyfriend, Justin. Luckily, she found a one-bed flat advert in Stockwell occupied by a twenty-seven-year-old palliative nurse, Leon Twomey, who works at night so she can have her bedshare while he is out. It seems like the perfect flatshare agreement money-wise with an implied rule that Tiffy and Leon need not necessarily meet. All is well for Tiffy and Leon except for the fact that she is still hung up with her ex, while Leon is constantly weighed down by his girlfriend, Kay. With an obsessive ex-boyfriend and a demanding girlfriend, the two came to communicate via Post-it notes they leave for each other around the flat. When they finally meet, all rules break loose as they discover how despite of their opposite personalities, they came to reconcile their differences, finding love in the end.
POV, Writing Style & Atmosphere
The author made use of alternate first-person POVs for the main characters: Tiffy and Leon. O’Leary’s prose is characterized by straightforward but detailed lines for Tiffy’s character, while she made use of concise but descriptive words, infused with script-style conversation for Leon’s segments. O’Leary’s writing style matches the individuality of the two characters. While writing style for Tiff is spontaneous, blunt, wordy and animated, Leon’s is reserved and withdrawn as evident with the use of two-word sentences and some fragments which magnify Leon’s timid but observant character. The novel’s tone is light and feel-good. The dialogues were funny one-liners and the witty remarks made the book truly unputdownable.
- Opposites attract
- Home is where you make it
- Sibling relationship
- Emotional abuse/manipulation
- Toxic relationship
What I love most about this book is how the author stayed true to the facets of the romance genre. O’ Leary has given us a sympathetic heroine in Tiffy and a logical but introverted archetypal hero in Leon that readers can immediately fall in love with. The physical attraction between the two characters is ever pervasive mostly when the author describes Leon’s mental images of Tiffy. Another remarkable asset of this novel is the build-up of sexual tension and O’Leary definitely delivered on that aspect (cue bathroom scene). The author also creatively used contemporary settings and modern-day conflicts but there are sections in the novel that are reminiscent of traditional romantic elements.
This is the kind of romance novel that makes you hopeful about love all throughout. O’Leary’s characters are all likable and compelling, easily identifiable and relatable. Although the mushy ending is quite formulaic, it doesn’t take away the fact that narratives of the romance genre still excite the readers, providing escapism. Overall, “The Flatshare” commits to the core of the romance genre by concluding a story that asserts the value of love and constructive relationships while satisfying the readers with its humorous appeal.