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.
I was first introduced to THE FLATSHARE when I saw someone ask on Twitter for the title of a novel they’d heard of in which two roommates who share a house at opposite times write notes to each other without seeing each other for a long time and eventually fall in love. That truly sounded like the most ingenious idea for a book so off I went to look for it! Tiffy, who is an assistant editor at a publisher of DIY crafting books, answers an ad that Leon, a night nurse at a hospice, puts in the newspaper, asking for a roommate who would occupy his apartment at night when he works his shifts.
Tiffy and Leon’s point of views alternate, and both are written in first person present tense. The actual writing styles and tones are completely different. Tiffy is radiant, energetic, and a little scatterbrained, and the narration in her POVs is straightforward and reflects her personality. Leon, on the other hand, is reserved and shy. His point of view is written in terse sentence fragments, which was extremely difficult to get used to. To be honest, I was getting frustrated reading the first 30 to 40% because he narrates in incomplete sentences which just wasn’t very pleasant to read. I found that this translated into difficulty getting to know Leon.
A large part of his story revolves around his brother Richie who has been incarcerated, and Leon believes he is innocent. This plotline was the book’s saving grace. I strongly considered DNFing after the first 40% because I just wasn’t connecting with Leon; however, I really started to feel for him when he showed how much he loved his brother and how much he sought justice for him. Richie also served as a connecting point for Leon and Tiffy and strengthened their relationship.
As well, Leon is a nurse in palliative care, and seeing his connect with his patients, especially one young girl, was heartwarming. I also thought having a male love interest in a contemporary romance novel whose job is typically considered more of a caretaking job was wonderful, because it fights toxic masculinity and breaks the perpetuation of harmful male stereotypes.
As I grew increasingly more connected to Leon’s character, I became more convinced of his and Tiffy’s relationship. The notes they wrote to each other at first were all business – asking where appliances and toiletries were and when to pay this or that bill. Eventually they became more witty, snappy, and flirty. Unfortunately, their relationship is hindered by Tiffy’s ex boyfriend, who is stalking her to her and Leon’s apartment, and to her work events. She feels frightened and Leon helps her whenever she is confronted by her ex. I thought this was particularly well done because at no point does Beth O’Leary write him as having a savior complex. I genuinely felt that he cared about her and her safety first and foremost without a thought to their budding romance, which made me like him more. (It is worth noting here that I absolutely do not have to like a character in order to enjoy a book or find it powerful; however, I thought it was essential here because I was having such a hard time connecting with Leon at all.
On the other hand, I was fascinated by Tiffy’s role at work, where she is sometimes irritated by an eccentric author of a DIY book. Her friend group made up of Rachel, Gerty, and Mo were her trustworthy companions on her journey, all different from one another and making up wonderful secondary characters. She is truly terrified of her ex stalking her, and although she should never have to, demonstrates both strength and vulnerability in the face of his awfulness. Her slight eccentricity and plucky personality is in such stark contrast to Leon’s quietness but they ultimately prove that opposites attract and can perfectly complement one another.
In the end, I am so glad I pushed through the first half of this book, because I think each individual storyline is worth it. THE FLATSHARE is a lovely contemporary novel with an unconventional slow burn romance at its core.
MY CONCLUSION: RECOMMENDED, WITH ASTERISKS
I struggled with the first 30% of THE FLATSHARE, but I think the last 70% is worth it. It might take some time to adjust to the major difference in flow and style comparing Tiffy’s and Leon’s points of view, and I wasn’t completely convinced that the terse sentence fragments that Leon uses to narrate were the most effective choice. Even so, the idea is novel and if you like the sound of it, then you probably won’t be disappointed in the end.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: Tiffy and Leon write notes to each other to communicate about their shared apartment in which Tiffy is there at night and Leon is there during the day, beginning a friendship and eventually a romance.
Genre: Adult contemporary romantic comedy
Trigger/content warning: stalking, harassment, hospice, terminal illness