Tiffy and Leon share a flat. Tiffy and Leon share a bed. Tiffy and Leon have never met…
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 rule book out the window…
Well, you can’t say that I don’t keep it varied, guys. One day I’m reading a gruesome horror novel about mutated killer cockroaches, the next I’m reading a warm, fuzzy rom-com. Variety is the spice of life, though, am I right?
Now, I tend to steer clear of any book that’s dubbed a ‘rom-com’. As a general rule, if a romance book doesn’t have vampires, demons or dragon shifters in it then I’m not interested. So why the hell did I decide to read The Flatshare? Well, I’m not actually sure. It’s a book that’s cropped up on my bookstagram feed again and again over the past couple of months and something about it just called to me.
First of all, I love love love the premise, the idea that two people can get to know each other through good old-fashioned note writing. All too often, protagonists in romance novels meet within the first chapter or two and fall victim to the dreaded instalove. There was none of this nonsense in The Flatshare, though. In terms of romance, The Flatshare is a slow-burner, with Tiffy and Leon’s first kiss not actually happening until page… Ha, you really thought I was gonna tell you? You can suffer the anguish of suspense just like I did! But basically it doesn’t happen for a long while and this was a breath of fresh air after having read so many books where two people meet each other and realise within literally two seconds that they’re ‘fated’ for one another. Despite sharing a bed, Tiffy and Leon’s paths don’t actually cross for a good few months because they have polar opposite shift patterns. Because of this, they communicate solely through sticky notes at first and it reminded me of when I first started speaking to my partner. We chatted primarily through Facebook Messenger for four months before actually meeting in person and I honestly don’t think that we would have the relationship we have if it wasn’t for this. Talking face-to-face can be awkward, especially if you haven’t known the person all that long. Intrusive, self conscious thoughts can get in the way of meaningful conversation – Am I making too much eye contact? Is part of my lunch stuck in my teeth? But these thoughts are non-existent when you’re talking to someone through Messenger, email, text, or even notes and letters, allowing you to simply get to know a person. This is what I loved so much about this book. When they finally do meet in person (a hilarious scene I might add), Tiffy and Leon already know each other. Their relationship is already somewhat established and they actually like one another for their thoughts and ideas, not their physical appearance. What their relationship eventually blossoms into is love, not lust, two things some romance authors can’t differentiate between.
The Flatshare is a funny novel, one that made me smile on numerous occasions and even laugh out loud the odd once or twice. It’s not all love and laughs, though. The novel does cover serious issues, such as abusive relationships and wrongful convictions and it’s these themes that allow the novel to transcend the label of ‘rom-com’. All too often, I’ve read so-called romance novels that glamorise abusive behaviour. Oh, he/she keeps tabs on you? It’s because he/she cares! Oh, he/she harasses you, turning up at your work and home unannounced and making demands? It’s because he/she cares! Oh, he/she is intensely jealous of anyone you talk to? It’s because he/she cares! Oh, he/she… You get the idea. It’s a disturbing, dangerous trope and one that can make readers believe that this kind of behaviour is normal. There’s none of this in The Flatshare, though. Beth O’Leary makes it clear that there’s no romance in stalking, no romance in intimidation, no romance in manipulation and no romance in gaslighting. Abuse doesn’t have to be physical for it to be abuse and it’s great that O’Leary is helping to spread this message through her work.
To summarise, The Flatshare is a charming and moving novel and despite it being a far cry from what I normally read, I thoroughly enjoyed it and really can’t recommend it enough.
Want to read The Flatshare? Head on over to Amazon to buy your copy, or order it through your local bookstore.