Tiffy and Leon share an apartment. Tiffy and Leon have never met.
After a bad breakup, Tiffy Moore needs a place to live. Fast. And cheap. But the apartments in her budget have her wondering if astonishingly colored mold on the walls counts as art.
Desperation makes her open minded, so she answers an ad for a flatshare. Leon, a night shift worker, will take the apartment during the day, and Tiffy can have it nights and weekends. He’ll only ever be there when she’s at the office. In fact, they’ll never even have to meet.
Tiffy and Leon start writing each other notes — first about what day is garbage day, and politely establishing what leftovers are up for grabs, and the evergreen question of whether the toilet seat should stay up or down. Even though they are opposites, they soon become friends. And then maybe more.
But falling in love with your roommate is probably a terrible idea…especially if you've never met.
Author: Beth O'Leary | Publisher: Flatiron Books
Thank you to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for the review copy! It will be published this coming Tuesday, May 28.
Content warning: Emotional abuse
The Flatshare surprised me, in a good way. I don't usually read books in the contemporary romance genre, because while they're fun and light and enjoyable, they don't usually say much. But that was not the case here!
It took a little while for the story to really get started, but around halfway it picked up and I couldn't put it down. What starts as a light-hearted promise of flirtation and courtship becomes a close, inside look at the journey of recognizing, processing, and beginning to recover from emotional abuse in romantic relationships. It was impactful and insightful and really powerful. I didn't expect much of a statement from this book, so when I found one, I was pleasantly surprised.
But that brings me to this description from the cover synopsis: "What if your roommate is your soul mate? A joyful, quirky romantic comedy, Beth O'Leary's The Flatshare is a feel-good novel about finding love in the most unexpected of ways." This book was very good, but it is absolutely not going to be feel-good for everyone. So, if you're reading this review and have experienced gaslighting or other forms of emotional abuse, I just wanted to give you that head's up.
Tiffy and her ex-boyfriend, Jason, have been off and on for years. Every time he leaves her, he eventually comes back. At the start of the novel, she'd still been living in his apartment while he dated someone else, waiting for this inevitability. But then he tells her to move out and that she has to pay him back rent for all the months she's been living there. So she answers an ad for a flatshare with a person who works the night shift; they'll share the flat, but never be there at the same time. This will allow her to save enough money to pay Justin back.
Leon is very different from Tiffy, who uses lots of words and loves bright colors and quirky decorations. Leon doesn't talk much; in fact, his narration chapters hardly even use pronouns, and he describes dialogue more like a script with the person's name and a colon before their statement rather than using quotation marks. I thought that was a really creative storytelling choice. Anyway, he's quiet and comfortable with the familiar but has a gigantic heart. It's pretty clear from the beginning that he and his current girlfriend are just not a good match for each other. Also, his brother is currently in prison for a crime he didn't commit, and this takes up a lot of Leon's emotional space.
What ensues is a story of Tiffy slowly realizing the extent of Jason's abuse and beginning to recover, and Leon finding that a few steps outside his comfort zone is exactly what he needed all along. By 75% of the way through the book I was reading furiously, heart breaking and throbbing for these two characters.