Friday 28 May 2021

The Couple by Helly Acton

Millie is a perfectionist. She's happy, she's successful and, with a great support network of friends and family (and a very grumpy cat), she's never lonely. She loves working at a big tech firm and is on track be promoted to her dream role. The last thing she needs is romance messing up her perfectly organised world.

Besides, normal people just don't have romantic relationships. Everyone knows that being in a couple is a bit . . . well, odd. You know, like having a pet snake or referring to yourself in the third person. Why rely on another person for your own happiness? Why risk the humiliation of unrequited love or the agony of a break-up? No, Millie is more than happy with her conventional single life.

So, when Millie lands a new project at work, launching a pill that prevents you falling in love, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. That is, until she starts working with Ben. He's charming and funny, and Millie feels an instant connection to him.

Will Millie sacrifice everything she believes in for love?

After reading and loving Helly Acton’s first novel “The Shelf” last year, I knew I’d be in for a treat with her new story: discovering an antidote for love. In this world, couples are treated the way we do singletons – oh, don’t worry, relationships don’t last forever, you should be focussing on you and your dreams, how to even make decisions when you always have to check with someone else? Everything was flipped, from the reality shows focussing on breaking couples up, to people’s attitudes towards parents staying together to raise their kid, even the meal deals for a single plate! And when you look at it backwards, you realise how weird our own society is in the way we treat relationships, singletons and co-parenting.

We follow Millie, a creative manager working at one of the fastest growing hook-up apps, as she first meets Ben, a chaotic new member of the team who has very different ideas about love. As they work together on a marketing pitch for a new pill that will stop you from falling in love, they prove that old adage: opposites attract. They were super cute together, balancing each other out and learning new perspectives on the (dare I say it?) benefits of relationships.

The whole thing was pretty bizarre but very fun. The friendships especially made it for me; the network of friends Millie has around her all bring some balance to her need for control and, in Ruth’s case, shows that you don’t lose your identity or your friendships by being in a healthy relationship. It might have been a bit corny in places but it was a fascinating new spin on a romantic novel, brought to us by Acton’s brilliant writing style.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

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