The Flatshare (The Flatshare #1), by Beth O’Leary

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A breath of fresh non-young-adult romance air! A great premise, brilliant writing. Loved it!

After a string of less-than-desirable reading experiences, I opted to go for a fun, light read – a romance!
I expected the usual: Some trope, like enemies-to-lovers, banter, quick lovey-dovey, some conflict, reconciliation and a happily ever after. Mostly, romance novels feel like they’re addressing a rather young audience – which I don’t exactly belong to anymore.

In “The Flatshare” by Beth O’Leary I got banter, on post-it notes. In a shared flat. Written by two adults; Leon, a male nurse with his own mental burdens, with a brother, Richie, who’s in jail, with a mother who has a long history of abusive men in her life. Leon also is a work-a-holic whose girlfriend has demands which Leon needs to meet as well. Last but not least, Leon is on a “humanitarian mission”.

Tiffy on the other hand is broke, looking for somewhere to live after the umpteenth separation from her abusive boyfriend. Said abuse has left deep mental scars. Her job at a small DIY publisher is… challenging in its own ways (“Crochet Your Way” is the latest book she’s working on…), with difficult colleagues.

“So much for a light and fluffy read.”, were my immediate thoughts. I read on, and on, and on. I pretty much swallowed it hook, line and sinker. This novel, it turned out, was certainly a very nice romance but also a much-needed breath of fresh air – those people feel real: Tiffy and Leon have lives. They have very real burdens to carry and there’s no quick-and-easy love but a fledgling friendship that “organically” develops…

I felt those people were actually thinking, responsible, highly relatable and likeable adults who also act like adults. The conflicts were there and they were very real but Leon, Tiffy and their friends dealt with them in a believable and intelligent manner. Like Tiffy actively going to get counselling.

(Let me quickly tell you that YOU should never hesitate for a second to get professional help if things get overwhelming. There’s no shame in asking for and getting help. Thrice in my life I’ve gone to a psychotherapist myself and it was a life-changing, relieving, freeing experience. Should you live in Germany, it’s free and way easier to get than you think. Just ask your local doc about it!)

»You know what? I am extremely proud of myself.«
(Tiffy after a counselling session.)

O’Leary didn’t write a dead-serious complicated novel, though, but manages to artistically walk a very fine line that’s also rich on (mostly) good-natured humour.

»What’s the bedroom going to look like?
Venture in, intrepid. Let out a strangled wail. It looks like someone vomited rainbows and calico in here, covering every surface in colors that do not belong together in nature. Horrific, moth-eaten blanket over bed. Enormous beige sewing machine taking up most of desk. And clothes … clothes everywhere.

The author also manages to write a very convincing Leon: Initially, I was slightly put off by his short, concise sentences; a very pronounced style of communication…

»I wonder if Leon will talk the way he writes, all short sentences and no pronouns.«

… only to find out that this short, abbreviated style actually gives the novel a more authentic feel and I came to actually appreciate it.

The dialogues – both on post-its and face-to-face – are also highly enjoyable…

Leon blinks at me, putting the book down in his lap. “You went from unconscious to judgmental very quickly there.”

That’s still not all, though: O’Leary also manages to write so emphatically about her characters I actually felt for everyone (sans certain people whom we’re meant to despise).

I’m immensely happy to have found and read this book and I can’t recommend it enough – even to those of you who usually don’t read romance. This one’s different.

A very happy, very wow’ed five stars out of five!

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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