I posted my last book review last week and – since then – I’ve read four books! I’m not racing through books as quickly as I did last year but that’s because I’m enjoying all the non-book related things I missed out. I actually read this book at the end of last month but – after reading two books that month I just didn’t fancy reviewing – I had completely forgotten to write or post a review of this one.
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) around her, she’s never lonely. She has her dream job at a big tech firm and is on track to become the company’s youngest ever Innovation Director. 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. Sure, everybody has that one coupled-up friend who messes up the numbers at dinner parties, but it’s a bit eccentric. You know, like having a pet snake or living off the grid. Why rely on another person for your own happiness? Why risk the humiliation of unrequited love or the agony of a break-up when you can do everything yourself? No, Millie is perfectly happy with her conventional single life.
So when Millie lands a new project at work, launching a pill that stops 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 with him. Is this the spark that science and society are trying to suppress?
Will Millie sacrifice everything she believes in for love?
Despite my mixed feelings about The Shelf, I gravitated to Helly Actin’s follow-up The Couple. I think because, unlike her previous novel, my set of circumstances related more to the protagonist. For anyone that hasn’t read my posts about dating from wayyyyy back, I’ll fill you in. I have a love-hate relationship with being single. I’ve dabbled in dating at various points of my twenties, with varying (but mostly mildly disappointing) results, and pretty much resigned myself that — aside from a boyfriend I had in the age of BBM (our entire ‘relationship’ was essentially subjecting anyone who followed us on BBM to statuses about each other which makes me cringe a massive amount when I think about it!) —- I’m probably not going to have a proper boyfriend anytime soon.
This book, which has such an original (if a little bit Black Mirror esque) premise, made me realise more than ever that being single isn’t as bad as I might think.
The Couple follows Millie, who is in love with her work, her cat and her best friends and — much like most, in a world where flings and being single are celebrated —- she’s happy with that. That is until, she starts feeling things for her new co-worker Ben. Millie already has the pressure of scoring a promotion at work, so why complicate things further by falling in love?
Millie was a fantastic protagonist. I loved seeing a woman in business at the forefront of this and it was refreshing to see her flourish on her own. Though she’s very serious and business minded, she’s also funny and sensitive and I enjoyed seeing a different side to her unravel following her meeting and — starting for fall for — Ben.
Like a lot of people who’ve reviewed this book, I really liked Ben. He doesn’t seem to be described as traditionally attractive but I think, like Millie, you become drawn to him for his sense of humour and the fact that — in sharp contrast to Millie —- he’s a bit clumsy and chaotic. It took me a bit of time but eventually I couldn’t deny the chemistry between the two characters, I loved their exchanges in work and the texts and emails, it really built up their chemistry and kept the story going.
The one thing I would’ve liked is more of a focus on Millie’s friends. They all appeared to be just as interesting as Millie though only her best friend is explored in depth. You really got the sense of a great sisterhood and bond which I throughly enjoyed.
The Couple is an interesting and original rom-com. It is littered with humour, female friendship and romance but it is also full of the effects of pressure from others and from yourself. It really put me at ease being a single person in a rapidly changing world (even if it did have me pining for a Ben of my own 😂).
You can buy this book here.
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