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.

Tuesday 11 May 2021

You and Me on Vacation by Emily Henry


12 SUMMERS AGO: Poppy and Alex meet. They hate each other, and are pretty confident they'll never speak again.

11 SUMMERS AGO: They're forced to share a ride home from college and by the end of it a friendship is formed. And a pact: every year, one vacation together.

10 SUMMERS AGO: Alex discovers his fear of flying on the way to Vancouver. Poppy holds his hand the whole way.

7 SUMMERS AGO: They get far too drunk and narrowly avoid getting matching tattoos in New Orleans.

2 SUMMERS AGO: It all goes wrong.

THIS SUMMER: Poppy asks Alex to join her on one last trip. A trip that will determine the rest of their lives.

It would be an understatement to say that Poppy is a traveller at heart. She yearns to see the world and for the last 10 summers, she has been able to branch out and explore more and more of it. Mostly with her best friend Alex, who is not a traveller. While Poppy wants the freedom of the open road, Alex wants the white picket fence and the steady job. But somehow, their friendship works and every summer, they travel together and discover somewhere new.

Told across various time periods, all based around that summer holiday, we see Poppy and Alex’s friendship in college blossom and span different jobs, financial situations and romantic partners, all the way to the present where they have some serious soul-searching to do.

It is a total “opposites attract” type of love story, because on paper, Poppy and Alex do not work together at all. But in reality, they just… get each other, in a way no one else in their lives do. It is also an adorable take on the friends to lovers trope, as they circle each other, wary of crossing that invisible line that would potentially ruin things forever.

With the world being what it is right now, I lived vicariously through Poppy’s travelling – imagine being able to travel? Leave the country, just because? Imagine being in a bar?! Anyway, the settings, the tension, the weird tourist traps, just all of it was so good and I fell head over heels for Poppy and Alex.

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