The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

The Flatshare Cover

Review of audiobook version of a fabulously unique romance

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: April 10, 2019
Pages: 336 pages
Publisher: Quercus
Source: Library
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

The author never states directly how old the two protagonists in this novel are, but based on their life situations, I’m guessing this is meant to be a New Adult novel, and they are somewhere in their mid-twenties.

Tiffy Moore is a minimum-wage assistant editor at a kooky small publisher of craft books which is located in London. Leon Twomey is a night-shift nurse who works in a hospital for patients who need hospice care. Tiffy is a bubbly extrovert and Leon is a quiet introvert, but they have one big thing in common: They are both broke.

Tiffy has been cheated on and kicked out of the flat where she’s been living for years with a long-term boyfriend, and she can’t afford an apartment on her own. Leon needs some extra money to help pay the legal fees of his younger brother, who has been wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he did not commit.

Because Leon can’t stomach the thought of having a regular roommate who will always be underfoot, he comes up with the idea of sharing his flat with someone whom he will never see. He will use the apartment during the day hours, and his flatmate will use the apartment at night.

At the start of the story, Leon currently has a longtime girlfriend, and he plans to stay at her apartment on the weekends and allow the flatmate to have his apartment during that time. Because she is jealous, Leon’s girlfriend says she will handle the entire transaction and pick his roommate, and Leon will never need to meet her at all in person. Being an easygoing person, Leon agrees, and Tiffy has no problem with that arrangement at all. The presence of a possessive girlfriend in her flatmate’s life makes the situation seem a lot safer.

In spite of never meeting each other and never talking to each other, a relationship begins between Tiffy and Leon when she leaves him a friendly little note on a post-it, and Leon reacts with a friendly little reply. From then on, the notes take off, until there are post-it notes all over the small apartment. They both come to enjoy those cute little communications to such a degree that, little by little, over time, a sweet, fanciful friendship begins to form.

I was afraid when I first started reading this book that it was going to be a slapstickish, chick lit story, which is a genre I’m not personally very fond of. But happily, that is not the type of book this is at all. As the story progresses, with the two exchanging notes, we also experience many scenes within the thoughts and lives of the two protagonists. In the process, it becomes extremely evident that both Tiffy and Leon have a huge heart and go way out of their way to compassionately help others.

This is the slowest of slow-burn romances, and there is not a single graphic sex scene in the entire book. Perhaps some romance readers may miss the sex scenes, but I personally found that a refreshing change from so many romances these days that seem to be about 90% sex, with very detailed and often crude descriptions of the sex.

The subcharacters in this book add a great deal to the development of our understanding of and connection to both Tiffy and Leon. Tiffy has three best friends who are completely devoted to her, and whom I really liked. They are her extended family and as such are a terrific addition to the book.

On Leon’s side, we get to know his jailed brother through his phone calls with both Tiffy and Leon. He is a delightful character, too. We get to meet Leon’s mother as well who, though she plays a very small part onstage in the book, is pivotal to the plot.

We also encounter lesser characters who are part of the work life of Leon and Tiffy, some of whom are friendly acquaintances, and some of whom are antagonists, but all are important to the overall plot. Normally I get really bored when romance novels spend too much time in the workplace of the hero and heroine, even if the two of them work together, and it’s an important setting. But this story is so well done, the work scenes are both interesting to read in and of themselves, and valuable additions to the book overall. Through them, I was able to get to know these two wonderful protagonists in such a well rounded way, that I found myself fully invested in those scenes as well.

There is a major antagonist in this book in the form of Tiffy’s ex-boyfriend, who emotionally abused her while they were together via gaslighting her and becomes her stalker in the story. That crucial subplot is also handled very well with a satisfyingly just conclusion.

One of the highest compliments that can be given to a book is to say that it makes the reader both laugh and cry, and that is definitely the case with this story for me. There are moments of laughter at the wittiness of the communications between Tiffy and Leon, and between these two protagonists and other subcharacters. And there are moments of tears in the poignancy of the tense situation of Tiffy and her evil ex, and Leon’s unremitting efforts to save his brother from his tragic, unjust jailing.

Even though there is no overt sex on the page, with the sex scenes blanked out beyond some passionate kisses, there is still plenty of sexual chemistry between Tiffy and Leon. And Leon is so sensitive and compassionate toward Tiffy that it is obvious, without it needing to be spelled out on the page, that he is a fantastic lover to her.

I experienced this story as an audiobook, and it is recorded with a male narrator for the chapters in Leon’s point of view and a female narrator for the chapters in Tiffy’s point of view. Both narrators are outstanding. Leon is Irish, and it was especially enjoyable to me hearing the male narrator do his Irish accent and that of his brother and mother. As a bonus in this audiobook recording, at the very end there is an interview of the author done by the female narrator. It was quite fun listening to that as well.

Overall, this is one of the best romance novels I’ve read in a very long time, and I’m sure I will want to experience it again and again in the future. It is a true keeper.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 5

Hero: 5

Subcharacters: 5

Romance Plot: 5

Heroine’s PTSD Plot: 4

Hero’s Social Drama Plot: 5

British Setting: 5

Audiobook Narration: 5

Writing: 5

Overall: 5

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