This is a three star read!!
I was given a copy of this eARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I went into reading this book with extremely high expectations as I absolutely adore house swap romances thanks to my obsession with the film The Holiday and although it did not completely live up to my expectations, and I had a few issues with it, I thought overall it was a delightfully sweet romance.
Cassie is an author living on a small island in Maine who needs to relocate to London for six months so she can work on the next installment of her extremely popular children’s book series.
James has just gone through a messy, and very public break-up the same day he had to make a lot of people redundant. Now, his ex is refusing to leave him alone, he needs a break from the city.
So, they agree to swap homes for half a year, but slowly they realise that their different lifestyles might be slightly more compatible than they originally thought. Will they find a new home in each others hearts, as well as each others houses?
I want to start this review by addressing the one thing that really stood out and confused me while I was reading this: Cassie’s heritage.
When I requested this book, I assumed from the cover that this was a white cis-het romance, because the woman on the cover is most-definitely white and so I was quite confused when I realised that Cassie is most definitely not. Although, it wasn’t until chapter 13, when James describes her as having “A lot of dark-brown curly hair and beautiful light-brown skin.” that I realised that she was not, in fact, a white woman.
The fact that Cassie was a Glaswegian/Jordanian woman, her mother is from Jordan and (I’m assuming, although it wasn’t clarified in the book) her father is from Glasgow, felt almost like an after thought and a grasp at diversity strings. She read very much as a tokenistic character of colour, especially considering that she was the only significant character of colour in the wholes story, although I am a white reviewer, so this is just my personal opinion on it and I cannot claim to speak on behalf of brown readers and reviewers on what is considered good representation. However, considering one of the books protagonists is a brown woman, I have not been able to find a single review by a brown reviewer, which is disappointing.
A small bit of representation that I did really appreciate was the sapphic representation in the form of Jennifer, Cassie’s agent, her wife Angela and their baby boy Sammy. It was lovely to see a queer family included so casually in the story.
The romance itself was incredibly sweet, although the fact that it was told in split points of view between two characters who both had their own pretty complex issues meant the love story didn’t get quite as much depth as it could have, which made it seem like things had moved extremely quickly.
The book needed a lot of trigger warnings (which you can find at the bottom of this review) as on the one hand, you had Cassie who was dealing with the grief of losing her first baby due to a miscarriage and on the other hand you have James dealing with the loss of his mother to alcoholism and his younger sister to a heroin addiction. These complex topics were written about in what I thought to be a considerate and compassionate manner, and it was nice to read a romance where the characters weren’t squeaky clean and trauma free.
Cassie was an absolute delight of a character, with her colourful style and friendly demeanour, she was the sort of character you could instantly connect with and were constantly rooting for to get a happy ending.
James was a more questionable character. One of the notes I wrote early on while I was reading was “James is an acquired taste, snarky and with one hell of a superiority complex. Potential to be lovely, though.” and I stand by that. He is an acquired taste, but he was to my taste, and I think by the end of the story, when he’d faced up to the demons of his past, and started working on himself, he actually became quite a nice man.
This book was good. I enjoyed Jo Lovett’s writing style, and the ending did put the biggest smile on my face, the way it tied in with the very first chapter was incredibly cleaver!! It was an engaging romance read that didn’t shy away from difficult topics. I wouldn’t rush to pick it up again, but I also wouldn’t discourage others from reading it.
Loss of a child through miscarriage, anxiety, grief, loss of a loved one to alcoholism, loss of a loved one to heroin addiction, unsuccessful IVF treatment.