Book Review: The House Swap (ARC)

Expected publication: April 19th 2021

Author: Jo Lovett

Island house off coast of Maine, with private beach, sea views and the occasional farmyard animal, seeks super swanky Central London penthouse overlooking Holland Park, complete with concierge service and spurned ex-lovers…

When thirty-somethings Cassie and James find each other on a home swap website, it feels meant to be. City hotshot James needs a bolthole after a relationship goes sour and Cassie needs to leave the comfort of her little island to research her new book.

Soon, James is living in Cassie’s cute but ramshackle beachside cottage, and Cassie’s living in James’s luxurious London apartment. It’s the perfect solution.

Except James didn’t imagine he’d be sharing his home with eleven chickens and three alpacas, not to mention the unusually friendly neighbours, who seem to find any excuse to drop by. And Cassie is less than impressed when James’s ex-girlfriend turns up at his door, demanding to know where he’s gone.

The more Cassie and James talk, the more the tension between them mounts. But as the insults fly so do the sparks, and when the time finally comes to swap back, Cassie and James find they aren’t quite ready to give each other up.

But there’s more than just distance between them – and when Cassie makes a surprising discovery, the pair are forced to confront their feelings and decide what kind of life they really want.

An utterly heart-warming love story that will make you laugh and cry, fans of The Flatshare, The Hating Game and movies like The Holiday will fall head over heels for The House Swap

The House Swap takes two characters who each need a break from their own routines. They find each other on a house swapping website and they decide to switch houses for the next six months. Like the synopsis says, it has similar vibes to the movie, The Holiday. Instead of being like the movie where each character finds their love interest in their new “homes,” this story has the two main characters get to know each other, while still interacting with those around them.

Cassie is a 37-year-old children’s book writer, which has been turned into a TV series. Currently, she resides on Hawk Egg Island in Maine after moving there from Glasgow, Scotland. She is working on creating more books for the series, but has a case of writer’s block. Her agent suggests a trip to London for both book research and a change of scenery. She is reluctant at first as she is comfortable with her life on the island with her alpacas, chickens, and her found family of characters that all reside there. I love all the people on the island as they are supportive and delightful in general. Eventually, her friends convince her to do a house swap and the top choice is James, a 35-year-old consultant from London.

One of Cassie’s main journeys in the novel is that she is desperate to become a mother, even if it means having a baby alone. She suffered a miscarriage during her previous relationship, which worked out for the best due to the romance not working out. As Cassie’s desire to become a mom is a huge part of the novel, I wish that a little more was explained about the medical possibilities for why she suffered the miscarriage. I realize that in the majority of cases it is impossible to give a central reason, but it would be nice to know if this was her first one, did the doctor suspect it is due to her age, is there a possible underlying medical condition, etc. Those are typically the most common reasons, but in no way is an exhaustive list.  I think it would have given more background to Cassie’s journey as she is now determined to complete IVF – one side point is that it makes me seriously wonder how rich Cassie is as IVF is well over ten thousand dollars every time (can go extremely higher than this for costs) and she is willing to try multiple times. Again, as this is a central plot, it would be nice to have more depth given to her journey. The pieces that we do see at the beginning are raw and emotional, but I just wanted more.

The other main plot is, of course, the relationship between Cassie and James. The two of them start off as mere acquaintances linked only by their house swap. They are complete opposites as James prefers to interact with his group and is not very outgoing. He likes his job for the security and finances, but his love for it is never there. Due to a lot of trauma from his past, he is closed off from the idea from serious relationships and he does not wish to have children. Over time, the two of them get to know each other through texts, phone calls, and in-person interactions where you can see them naturally opening up more to the other. They each find the other initially attractive, but it is not insta-lust or love. Instead, their relationship is a slow-burn even to get to official friendship levels, which is a nice refreshing take on this type of story and also fit the plot really well, given that the two of them live in opposite countries and start off as complete strangers.

Overall, this story has many elements to make it a fantastic story. It lost me a little as there were tons of side stories that either ended up being dropped or not given the time they deserved. Some of the main ones that come to mind are James and his ex-girlfriend, Emily, the workers that were made redundant during James’s last consulting project and each character’s relationships with their own families.  They are excellent ideas for storylines, but with a ton of focus on the house swap itself and the accompanying emotional journeys for each character, the growing bond between the two main characters, and Cassie’s journey to potential motherhood, the novel just did not have the time to fully wrap everything up. This was an enjoyable read with a delightful premise. It was not perfect, but it was very enjoyable and I would be curious to read more from this author!

**I want to give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Bookouture, for a review copy of this enjoyable novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

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