In general, I’m not a huge fan of romantic fiction. I don’t even really like rom-com films or TV shows- they’re easy to watch but they usually lack any real substance.
So I was intrigued when I received a copy of Just Haven’t Met You Yet. In essence, the plot sounds like that of a typical cheesy rom-com: girl loses her suitcase on a solo work trip, and sees the contents and realises that she might just love the guy who owns it.
However, from the moment I picked the book up, I knew this wasn’t your typical cheap holiday read. Author Sophie Cousens already has one knockout bestselling book under her belt, and she’s got extensive experience working in TV and producing amazing reality TV series. The writing is top-notch from the very first sentence, and as you get further into the novel, you realise that the plot isn’t as simple and obvious as you might think.
The novel revolves around a woman named Laura, who works for a website in London called Love Life. She runs the site’s ‘How They Met’ video segment, where couples tell cute tales about how they met and got together. During a meeting, she suggests a story about her parents’ love story, which is cute. Her mum found half of an old coin, and set off to Jersey to find the second half. When she got there, she met the son of the woman who had the other half and fell head over heals in love.
With both her parents now dead, Laura only has a few mementos, including the coin and a selection of photos of their time on Jersey, to remember them by. Her editor is excited about the prospect and arranges a short-notice work trip for Laura to go to Jersey alone and write a feature on the island and its romantic scenery.
Laura heads off to the island for a long weekend trip with just hand luggage. As the airplane is full, the airline asks Laura and anyone else with a wheeled suitcase to put it in the hold. In her rush to grab her bag in Jersey, Laura picks up the wrong case. When she opens the bag, she finds that it contains everything that she thinks a man ought to have, such as a copy of her father’s favourite novel, warm jumpers and more.
As she searches for missing suitcase man, who could very well also be Mr Right, Laura encounters a host of eccentric locals, including a morose cab driver and his dad, a randy elderly beekeeper and more. Each of them has their own story to tell, and as Laura gets potentially closer to meeting the love of her life, she learns that not everything is as it seems when it comes to her parents’ picture perfect Jersey love story. While meeting long-lost relatives, Laura gets thrown for a loop by the revelations that they provide and the new information they give her could permanently change her views on love and romance.
Cousens creates relatable and engaging characters, who make you want to keep reading just to find out more about them. At times the plot feels like a predictable romantic comedy, but then the author throws the reader a curveball that keeps you on your toes. She repeatedly breaks the fourth wall in a way by having Laura remind the reader of what would happen if she were in a romantic novel or film, which is intriguing and unique. It sets the novel apart from the rest of the predictable romantic fiction that I’ve read in the past, and I’ve read a fair few of these when I’ve been on holiday and ran out of decent books to read. When faced with a limited selection of books from a hotel lobby or holiday home bookshelf, I often find that romantic books are the best of a bad bunch, and gravitate to them, but I’ve never read anything quite like Just Haven’t Met You Yet.
I think what I like most about this novel is how much I can relate to it. That won’t be the case for everyone- there are a lot of coincidences in my case, but the novel and its characters are very realistic and I think that many people could find something to relate to. For me, there’s a lot- firstly, Laura is 29 and a writer who’s a bit rudderless- I am the same age, have the same profession and have no idea what on earth I’m doing with my life!
Then there’s Love Life, the online magazine that Laura works for. It’s run by an editor called Suki, who is the archetype of a typical dreadful magazine editor, and someone who I have tried to be the opposite of as a manager. I have met and worked for my fair share of Suki’s in the past- editors who demean and bully their staff, dismiss their ideas without even hearing them, put all the blame on their employees when things get rough but grab all the credit if things go right.
That’s pretty much every past boss I’ve had in writing until I got my current job, and hit the boss jackpot with a really kind and supportive person. However, I don’t think I know a single writer who’ve not worked for someone who’s almost exactly like Suki. Her incessant nagging and rudeness, as well as her attitude towards her staff, is precisely why so many publishers have such a high turnover of staff.
I also enjoy the fact that the novel is about more than just Laura’s search for love. Cousens also infuses the book with unusual life lessons and teachings from unlikely characters, such as an elderly couple who are having an affair to get through the torment of a dementia diagnosis. The writer shares a selection of lessons, but the biggest one is that you can either take them or not- you do you. That’s refreshingly un-preachy from a book full of proverbs and snippets from a fictional self-help text that the protagonist is reading- another example of the writer playing with the form.
To conclude, I think that Just Haven’t Met You Yet is a fun, intelligent version of the classic rom-com. It’s a cut above the rest, and worth checking out even if you’re not usually a fan of romantic fiction. Cousen’s experience as a screenwriter shines through and gives the novel an edge that most romantic books simply don’t have. I really enjoyed it and found it hard to put down, and that’s coming from someone who isn’t usually a fan of sentimental books about romance and family histories, so this one must be bloody good.