Length: 20,000 words
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover: Tibbs Design
Martin Harrison keeps himself to himself and his Central London flat as neat as a new pin. Maybe he should loosen up and enjoy more of a social life, but in his mind, that’s tantamount to opening the floodgates to emotional chaos. He agrees, however, to join the flat-sitting scheme in his building and look after another tenant’s flat in exchange for a similar watch over his when he’s travelling for his work.
A floor away in the same building, Russ McNeely is happy with his life as a freelance cook and a self-confessed domestic slob. He also joins the flat-sitting scheme, both to be neighbourly and to help keep his flat in order, as Russ also travels for his work.
For a while, the very dissimilar men never meet. Martin is horrified at the mess at Russ’s flat, while Russ finds Martin’s minimalist style creepy. But in a spirit of generosity, each of them starts to help the other out by rearranging things in their own inimitable way.
Until the day a hiccup in the schedule brings them face-to-face at last.
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First and foremost How the Other Half Lives is a sweet, endearing ‘opposites attract’ story. And when I say ‘opposites’ I do actually mean OPPOSITES.
There’s poor Martin; the neat-freak to end all neat-freaks. This is not a case of disliking clutter, or liking things organised. No, Martin is so obsessed about order in his life he’s all but stopped living.
Russ McNeely on the other hand, wouldn’t recognise order if it jumped up and bit him in the face. He doesn’t organise his life any better than he does his apartment or his clothes, but has no problems with the turmoil in his life, even if it drives his friends insane.
These two men should have driven each up the wall once they start looking after each other’s houses, what with Russ leaving Martin’s apartment less organised than he’s found it and Martin trying to straighten some of the chaos in Russ’s house out. Except that both men find themselves adapting to the other even before they accidentally meet.
That’s one thing about this book; the two protagonists don’t actually meet until well into the story. They get to know and used to each other through their living spaces and almost without noticing it they start to affect how the other treats his environment and his life.
When they meet by accident it’s a shock to both their systems but it doesn’t take them very long to figure out that they are very drawn to each other despite, or maybe it is because of, the differences between them.
This is an adorable story. Both Martin and Russ are most endearing; fully aware that their attitude towards their living space is not quite the norm but so stuck in their way that it takes an outsider’s eyes and touch to change how they act.
I have to admit that for me the story could have been somewhat longer. I would have loved to see more of the two men figuring each other out through their house sitting experiences before they actually meet. And I wouldn’t have minded a few moments of utter disbelieve at each other’s approach after they meet either. Having said that, considering that I read the whole story with a smile on my face, it’s safe to say I thoroughly enjoyed this novella and the story works perfectly well as it is. I guess me wishing there had been more to this story only serves to prove how much I did enjoy it.
Long story short; How the Other Half Lives is thoroughly enjoyable, cute, and great fun.
Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter 3 stage and plenty of other projects in mind . . . she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.
All the details and free fiction are available at her website. Visit her today and say hello!
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