Book Review - The No-Show by Beth O'Leary

Book review: Beth O’Leary’s ‘The No Show’, a charming and wise contemporary romance with emotional heft ★★★★

Meet three women: Siobhan, Miranda, and Jane – all stood up by the same enigmatic Joseph Carter on Valentine’s Day. These three couldn’t be more different – Siobhan is a seemingly self-assured life coach, extroverted and fashion-conscious. Miranda is a tree surgeon who can more than hold her own amongst a group of lads. And unassuming Jane is rebuilding her life after fleeing London in mysterious circumstances, and volunteering at a charity shop in Winchester.

Joseph seems like the perfect guy. He’s handsome, thoughtful, smart, and a devoted carer to his mum with dementia. But there’s something he’s holding back from all of them – they can’t quite get the full story. Something’s not quite adding up.

‘Beautiful, careful simplicity – that is the life Jane has built for herself. And then there’s Joseph. Certainly beautiful, not at all simple.’

While there are central romances in this story, it’s very much a novel about relationships in all their many forms. Beth O’Leary’s characters are, as always, living and breathing on the page –  a fully-fleshed-out and authentic cast you’re invested in and rooting for. I particularly enjoyed the friendships between the characters – Jane with the exuberant Aggie, Miranda and her insufferable but endearing baby sisters Adele and Frannie, Siobhan’s flatmate and steadfast best friend Fiona. These characters are never wallpaper in her stories – they play essential roles in shaping the narrative.

What I found refreshing and surprising about The No-Show is the way that O’Leary took it in a direction I wasn’t expecting – there’s a big reveal about three-quarters of the way through and things start to fall into place in a satisfying resolution. I wouldn’t profess to be good at spotting these things in advance, but I would never had guessed the cleverly constructed conceit at the heart of the book.

‘It’s not exactly the way she imagined this moment – more livestock, for instance – but here is her chance to tell Joseph how she really feels about him.’

I so enjoy Beth O’Leary’s writing (she’s really the only author of this genre I read), because she’s able to balance emotional heft with moments of levity and humour. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill contemporary romantic fiction – there’s emotional depth and an exploration of hard-hitting and life-altering events. It might be a little darker than you’re expecting, but it’s pulled off with O’Leary’s trademark warmth and compassion.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, get it on your TBR for April 2022!

CW: depression, baby loss

With thanks to Quercus for the advanced copy. The No-Show will be published in April 2022.

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