Contemporary romance novels are normally littered with predictability, cringe-worthy chance meetings and, of course, love and attraction at first sight. However, for Eithne Shortall’s debut novel, this could not be further from the truth. While the main plot is a tale of love and the woes that are involved, there are so many dynamic subplots that really enrich the complexity of the novel.
Our protagonist is witty, charming and brutally honest which is what makes readers fall in love with her before the first chapter even concludes. Cora Hendricks, or cupid as she becomes affectionately known, is finding it difficult to find love. Recently out of a breakup, she is almost despondent. Watching other people get married is enough to make any woman go crazy. But instead of focusing on her own life, Cora decides to play matchmaker as the check-in clerk for Aer lingus. Her evolution throughout the novel is a key concept that drives the narrative of the story. Readers can visualise and hope for the blossoming romance before Cora herself even realises love could be a possibility.
The plot itself is an engaging idea. The thought of trying to match people together based on preconceived ideas of who they are and what they like is enough to catch the eye of any hopeless romantic. However, the intricacies of the character is what makes the reader stay. Nancy, Cora’s colleague and friend, is ambitious, driven and just a little bit crazy while George, her gay, american colleague, is resentful of Cora’s matchmaking. The working dynamic between the trio is what leaves readers giggling page after page.
Shortall’s writing really represents aspects of her personality. Shortall is sarcastic and clever and it provides levity and humour to the story. Her Irish roots are undeniable in the dialogue and the jokes. But what’s most impressive is how a lighthearted, romance book can touch on the topics of abortion, the equality referendum, alzheimers and racism. Shortall’s casual dealings with the controversial issues really hit home that these are common dealings in everyday life, even if you’re not aware of it. That’s one of the most note-worthy aspects of the novel.
The only fault in the novel would be the abrupt ending. The dramatic running through the airport to find your true love is old and this ending doesn’t provide any new angle for it. One minute Cora is working and the next she is running around the airport like a headless chicken. While it was a very easy happy-ending to read, it was too rushed for me to fully enjoy the dramatic conclusion.
Altogether, the book was thoroughly enjoyable. While it fits into the genre of lighthearted romance, it encompasses far more than fluffy happiness and paints a somewhat realistic version of how love can arise at the most inopportune times.