Book Review: A Love of Two Halves by PJ Whiteley

I’m a sucker for a love story; I always have been, and I always will be. I can’t help it; perhaps it’s growing up watching films and TV where love always saves the day. Perhaps it’s having spent much of my life to date studying poetry. Or perhaps it’s just something in my DNA. Whatever the cause, it drives me to seek out and consume love stories at an astonishing rate. Which is just what I did with A Love of Two Halves, the brand new novel from author PJ Whitely.

Before getting into the full review, I’ll say this; I read this novel in three days. I couldn’t put it down, and just had to keep turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next. It grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. And it was a hell of a ride.

In many ways it’s a simple story of boy meets girl, they fall in love, and live happily ever after. But once you dig into it, this story runs deeper than that. The boy in this novel is George Mowatt, a rich bachelor from Leeds originally, but who now lives down south in his big Surrey mansion, working nearly 24/7 as founder and CEO of a consulting business.

The girl, Karen Barnes, is Leeds born and raised, a single mum with two kids and no fathers, working odd hours at a cleaning job just trying to provide a better life for herself and her family. And this difference in socio-economic status is what really kicks this novel to the next level.

The two meet by total coincidence, when George is lost trying to find his way to Elland Road to watch his beloved Leeds United play one sunny Saturday afternoon. Their differences are immediately apparent, when George offends Karen by asking if it’ll be safe to leave his fancy sports car on her street for a few hours. She takes the condescending words with good humour, but George is mortified. He hadn’t meant to offend, but had been genuinely wondering. This scene is a microcosm of all that follows; George and Karen fall madly in love, but because they’re such different people, there are always blockers between them.

It’s these blockers that take what could have been a simple love story, and push it to a higher plane, one where you become fully invested in the characters, all the time desperately hoping they’ll overcome their differences and end up together.

The characters themselves are skilfully drawn; the novel brings them to life in such a vivid way that you can feel their emotions, you can feel their joy and despair and happiness and pain. I found myself nearly shouting at them a few times, wanting to be the deus ex machina simply to get them together and to have them live happily ever after.

The novel is set in Leeds, and as someone who has lived in Leeds for nearly 10 years at the time of writing, I loved being able to trace the characters routes, to be able to picture the streets and houses exactly in my mind. But that isn’t to say that this book isn’t for non-Leeds people. Not knowing Leeds won’t hinder your understanding or enjoyment of the novel at all; you might even learn a thing or two about this wonderful Yorkshire city.

The story of George’s and Karen’s rollercoaster relationship had me gripped from the first page, and I could barely put it down. The chapters alternate their points of view, and we often see events through both of their eyes. This is a brilliant literary device, and takes such skilful writing to achieve. Here, it is achieved with aplomb.

I highly enjoyed this novel, and would recommend it to fans of love stories, fans of sports stories, and fans of literature as a whole.

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