As I’ve said before, there are only a few authors’ backlists that I’ve caught up with, but Beth O’Leary is one of those authors for me. In today’s spotlight, we take a closer look at this up-and-coming romance author.
Beth O’Leary is a best-selling romance author who was born and raised in England. As the youngest of six siblings, O’Leary found comfort in books and went on to study English at university before graduating and working full time in children’s publishing. Her work consisted of publishing books that tied into popular TV shows like Peppa Pig and Dr Who. During this time, she completed four manuscripts but didn’t have any luck getting them published. Unperturbed by this, she continued to write daily until her debut novel was picked up by Quercus Books.
The Flatshare (2019)
O’Leary’s instant bestselling debut novel The Flatshare was written during her daily commute to her publishing job in London. She explains that “it seemed like the perfect way to make more space for writing in my day” especially as she sat on the train with no wifi for up to two hours a day. O’Leary’s persistence landed her with a book deal and an agent at the age of 26.
The Flatshare puts a refreshing twist on the rom-com genre and tells the story of two characters who share the same flat but are on alternative working/sleeping schedules, so they never see each other. Interestingly, this idea stemmed from O’Leary’s living situation. Her then-boyfriend, a junior doctor, often worked night shifts and she thought “what would happen if two strangers lived this way?”
This uplifting romance novel quickly became a Sunday Times bestseller, was translated in to 32 languages, became a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick, was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Romance in 2019 and won the WHSmith 2019 Fiction Book of the Year.
The Switch (2020)
Following the wild success of her debut novel, O’Leary suffered from a case of imposter syndrome. She is often quoted asking what if The Flatshare was a fluke? Her way of counteracting this, much like Donna Tartt, was writing something totally out of her comfort zone.
The Switch follows a young woman who switches lives with her grandmother for two months – she moves up to rural Yorkshire for a break from manic city life and her grandmother moves down to her cool flat in London for an adventure. At its core, this novel is about family, community and love.
O’Leary explains that she was inspired by her grandmother who was sick at the time of writing the novel but instead of focusing on the sadness she wanted to write a strong, powerful older character who is still full of life and humour.
This charming story was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Romance in 2020.
The Road Trip (2021)
Written and published during lockdown, O’Leary’s most recent release is again completely different from her previous two novels. The Road Trip follows two exes who are thrown together on a long road trip, to a friend’s wedding, that is full of diversions, terrible playlists, and a limited supply of snacks.
Despite O’Leary being a nervous driver who often gets car sick she wrote this technically challenging road trip book because she had this idea stuck in her head since before she wrote The Flatshare. O’Leary claims that she loved the forced proximity romance trope so was keen to put her stamp on the genre by writing a realistic unglamourous British road trip.
Beth lives in the countryside with her husband, dog and new baby as she joyfully writes full time – she has recently signed with Quercus for two more books. Her breakthrough into the romance genre back in 2019 was well deserved and arguably well needed as her books are a breath of fresh air in a saturated market. If this spotlight hasn’t sold you on her books yet then let Beth convince you!
You can expect an uplifting romantic read that’s grounded in real-life… my books will engross you, make you laugh, and leave you smiling when you reach that final page.Beth O’Leary