Originally published: 27 May 2021
Author: Helly Acton
Published by: Zaffre
Length: 400 pages
Reading dates: 31 May-3 June 2021
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), she’s never lonely. She loves working at a big tech firm and is on track be promoted to her dream role. 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. You know, like having a pet snake or referring to yourself in the third person. Why rely on another person for your own happiness? Why risk the humiliation of unrequited love or the agony of a break-up? No, Millie is more than happy with her conventional single life.
So, when Millie lands a new project at work, launching a pill that prevents 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 to him.
Will Millie sacrifice everything she believes in for love?
Told in a kind of alternative universe where falling in love and being in a couple is frowned upon, Millie is a high flyer, on track to become chief creative officer at Slide, an online app that encourages single people to meet for dates and sex. She has a great group of friends, a controlling mother who wants her to succeed at work and is good at her job.
Society is set up for single people – children are born using sperm donors and raised in single parent households, convenience meals are for one, tax and rent are cheaper for singletons and anyone in a couple is considered to be some sort of freak. Ruth her manager at work and good friend, is in a new romantic relationship with another woman called Sam and Millie can’t quite get her head around how anyone would fall in love and why anyone would want to be in a couple, seeing only the negatives.
Millie along with new creative Ben, is tasked with creating a marketing campaign for a new drug, Oxytoxin created by the scientists at Slide. Just two tablets of Oxytoxin, stops the glands from releasing the blend of hormones that create the sensation of falling in love. The way the company sees it, Oxytoxin protects you from having your heart broken by preventing you falling in love in the first place. And if you already have a broken heart, it mends it. As part of their research, Ben and Millie speak to prospective users of Oxytoxin who say why they think it would be good for them. And as they spend more time together, Millie starts to question what she has always thought about single life.
I found the premise of The Couple quite thought provoking. My instinct on reading the blurb was that a tablet to stop someone falling in love is a terrible idea – I can’t imagine not being able to fall in love and spend my life in a couple with my partner. But the book makes several convincing arguments why single life is perhaps better – less distractions, not having to take anyone else into consideration, avoiding the heartbreak that can come with being in love. While taking tablets is a pretty extreme way to stop it happening maybe there is something in it?
I read and enjoyed The Shelf last year so was really keen to read The Couple. Not too heavy, but written well addressing lots of issues, The Couple is a fun and enjoyable read that I very much enjoyed.
Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for inviting me on the blog tour and to Zaffre Books for the proof copy. Be sure to check out what these other awesome bloggers are saying!
The Couple was Book 1 off my 20 Books of Summer.
About the author:
Helly Acton is a copywriter from London with past lives in the Middle East, Africa and Australia. Born in Zimbabwe, Helly and her family emigrated to the East Sussex coast when she was 15 years old. Here, she finished school and spent her holidays in Saudi Arabia, where her father had been placed with work. She studied Law at King’s College London before following a more creative path into advertising. In her mid-twenties, Helly escaped the rat race and took a three-month career break to travel in Africa, India and Asia before landing in Australia. What was supposed to last one year ended up lasting six, and after a life-affirming break-up in Sydney she returned home to find herself the last of her single friends. Helly threw herself into the deep end of online dating in the city and uses her experience as a single woman in her early thirties, torn between settling down and savouring her independence, as a source of inspiration for her stories.