As I grew up reading fantasy and classics it was a surprise to discover, a couple of years ago, that I thoroughly enjoy reading slice of life romance narratives thanks to picking up Giovanna Fletcher’s novels via Audiobook and Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare. Due to this discovery, I immediately jumped at the chance to try out a completely new contemporary/romance narrative which popped into my inbox as a blog tour. Please check out my fellow book bloggers and reviewers using the image I’ve included below.
One coin, one year and one new shot at love.
It’s New Year’s Eve and Josh has a high-flying proposal planned.
An exclusive pod on the London Eye, with champagne, truffles and the ring. It’s perfect.
Until she says no.
And they have to spend the next 29 excruciating minutes alone together.
By the time Josh is back on the ground, his whole life is up in the air.
He’s managed to lose his girlfriend, his job and his flat.
Realising he can’t trust his own judgement, Josh puts his faith in fate.
From now on he will make every choice by flipping a coin.
It’s reckless and scary, but Josh has tried the right way and look where he ended up.
And what if the girl of his dreams is just one flip of a coin away?
— Publisher synopsis, Penguin Random House
Firstly, I want to clarify a common misconception I often see concerning three-star reviews. This rating does not equate to me thinking this is a bad book. In fact, quite the opposite. I use three stars to identify a solid, okay to good book and you can find a further break down here.
As anyone who has heard me gush over The Flatshare can tell you, I love a unique twist for a romance setup. The Flip Side certainly follows this theme with an adorable romance set up including fate, Van Gogh, extensive travel, postcards and art galleries. The unique aspect of this title comes in Josh’s New Year’s resolution to flip a coin for all major decisions across the upcoming year. This interesting concept is once you’re certainly not going to forget as this book melds comedic aspects, as he originally flips it for all decisions to the point of doing it seven times before 9 AM, and the serious as it directly impacts his relationships and, slightly obviously, his decisions.
As a lover, and at times defender, of How I Met Your Mother I would say this book is certainly for fans of that slightly naïve romantic man doing whatever he possibly can narrative. I certainly feel like Ted would give coin flipping a try if he met Josh. Similarly, to the show, there is certainly some instalove in here and, while I found it a little jarring, it will certainly appeal to some well-versed romance readers. Looking past this, however, I found the romantic dates the two characters experienced to be adorable and lovely to read. I laughed out loud whilst reading this book. The standout moments of comedy were also quite interesting ideas like Josh wearing a unicorn horn and it is treated as a dangerous object upon entering a London art gallery.
It’s quite refreshing to read a romantic contemporary both set outside of London and written from the male perspective. The setting, in particular, was such a pleasant surprise for me as a Bristolian currently living away from the city. I’ve also thoroughly missed browsing art galleries far more than I expected during lockdown. The inclusion of Kings College London, Bristol University (the universities I’m currently working on applications for), Paris and Amsterdam also brought smiles to my face. The overall detailed settings proved to be like warm hugs throughout the narrative.
The realism of Josh’s bad luck, losing his girlfriend, job and flat in the space of one night, was very relatable especially the struggles of searching for a new job which I’m currently experiencing myself. However, I’m very glad to report that this did not overwhelm the narrative and I could still enjoy my reading experience without being reminded of my own difficulties too much. There are just enough excellent escapism episodes throughout the narrative to lighten the mood whilst maintaining the relatable experiences. You are certainly gripped and drawn in with anticipation to find out what is going to happen next in Josh’s experience.
Whilst I enjoyed the comedic threads throughout the writing, I found myself experiencing the writing style and more of a means to a narrative end rather than relishing the writing itself. The pacing was quite slow between the high impact opening New Years scene and the key London Marathon. It was only after this London Marathon scene, when the key Sunflower Girl was introduced, that I was truly gripped. However, this felt a little too long waited for and caused the intriguing later narrative aspects, namely the Instagram account created for Josh, to pass by a little too quickly.
As refreshing as it is to read from the male perspective, I think the narrative could have benefited either from an increased inclusion of the two key female characters or the inclusion of their perspectives. I don’t think this would need to be as heavy as a fifty-fifty split, however, perhaps just a couple of chapters or passages would have given the girl’s stronger narrative voices, experiences and impact. This also would have increased the tension in the two key conflicts which the girls are included in which, in the book itself, do appear quite unexpectedly. Especially given the UK cover design and the title I was expecting more of a balance between perspectives and experiences.
Overall, I enjoyed the romcom, comedic experience of reading The Flip Side. Whereas there were some instalove and conveniences which drew me out of the story slightly, I cannot deny the warmth of reading about Bristol, art galleries, travel and a genuinely lovely to read romance. I simply wanted more development from Josh and his key love interest to read more of what I was enjoying. The Flip Side is ideal for fans of charming romcoms, particularly How I Met Your Mother and those intrigued by leaving things to chance.
If you have any recommendations for any brilliant British contemporary romances, which ideally don’t feature job loss or struggling finances as I’m looking for complete escapism, please pop them in the comments! The next one on my list is Emily Henry’s Beach Read.
The Flip Side by James Bailey is out now in ebook and will be published physically on the 26th of November 2020 by Penguin Random House.
I was invited to take part in the blog tour by Sriya Varadharajan (Press Officer) who provided all e-book links via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Sriya, Michael Joseph and NetGalley for this opportunity.
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