Review: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary (2019)

Heat Factor: There’s plenty of horniness when they figure out their feelings, but the door is closed

Character Chemistry: Epistolary romance very well done

Plot: Tiffy has to move out of her ex’s place and needs really cheap rent. Leon needs money, so he decides on a flatshare, but it’s a weird flatshare because they’re sharing the exact same space, just never at the same time. 

Overall: This is the sort of book that might inspire one to read a whole bunch of other epistolary romance

I listened to the audiobook version of The Flatshare and I really struggled to turn it off when I needed to focus on other things. There was a lot going on, but without all that stuff, I don’t think the protagonists would have had the same 3-dimensionality and I don’t think the book would have been quite as engaging. Also, re audiobook, the narrators did a lovely job, so it went down real easy. 

The idea is that Tiffy and Leon share the exact same space, but never at the same time. Leon needs some extra money, and he works nights and spends weekends with his girlfriend, so he really only needs his flat for sleeping during the day. That makes it perfect to rent to someone else for the rest of the time. Tiffy, who is coming out of a long-term relationship, finally realizes that this time it’s really O-V-E-R, and realizes that she does, in fact, need to move out of her ex’s place. But her job pays peanuts, so she needs something super inexpensive. In London. Thus opting to share not only a flat but a bed with a man she’s never met. 

At first I wondered how the author would make this romance work, because Tiffy is still really hung up on her ex and Leon is in a not-terrible relationship for the first portion of the book. And they both take time to transition out of those relationships in a natural, non-sudden, non-cheating way. Possibly the only reason this works and the book stays interesting is because Tiffy and Leon are getting to know each other only through their back-and-forth notes in the flat. When they finally meet, they’re both really surprised to find the other attractive. 

What makes this book really delightful is that Tiffy and Leon see each other. 

Leon recognizes that Tiffy was in an emotionally abusive relationship because he saw his mother deal with it over and over, and he supports her as she navigates caring for herself and shedding some of the harmful baggage she’s been carrying. He might not be perfect, but when Leon doesn’t abuse her, Tiffy is better able to see how abusive and manipulative her ex was. 

Leon’s struggle isn’t for himself, but he’s expending a lot of emotional energy because his brother has been wrongly convicted of armed robbery. Tiffy not only believes that this is true, but she offers help as she can (this in contrast to the ex who had real feelings for Leon but didn’t believe his brother was innocent). She also doesn’t resent Leon’s night shift work. Suddenly Leon’s burden is shifted. 

It’s not a super light and easy read, but it’s also not very heavy. It is charming and playful, and I really liked that Tiffy is a big woman (not fat – I wouldn’t call this a fat rep book – but she’s very tall and built accordingly). I’d read another book by this author, though I might tread somewhat cautiously since her books seem to be marketed slightly more in the women’s fiction line. 

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

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