I was curious about Rosie Curtis’s We Met In December in what I assumed would be a romance-cum-chicklit à la Bridget Jones (whom I LOVE) way. The words “rom-com” don’t always strike delight in my heart, but in this case, I was in the mood. Hmmmm … what I discovered was almost nothing of the former and a smidgen of the latter. I enjoyed Curtis’s novel, but it didn’t quite fit its touting bill.
We Met In December is structured in alternating heroine-hero-first-person POV. I was certainly engaged by its opening and female voice. Newly-arrived in London from Bournemouth, Jess is thrilled to be embarking on her dream: to live in one of the world’s great cities and work in publishing. She’s especially lucky to have found ideal lodgings with her friend, Becky, whose grandparents have left her a Notting Hill house, NOT something Jess could afford otherwise, not in a million years. Same with the other lodgers, one of whom is Alex, nurse-in-training and the novel’s male POV.
It’s Christmas and London is festooned with cheer. Jess’s first glimpse of Alex, in Becky’s kitchen doorway, sends her into a frisson of desire and longing. But, for different reasons, Jess and Alex aren’t ready to commit to a relationship: Jess because she’s newly embarking on her career and Alex, well Alex is the more reluctant of the two, because he left a fiancée and lawyer’s career, to train as a nurse … in truth, the fiancée left him when he gave up status and money. He’s beset by essays and stages and sleeps little to not at all, but he loves what he’s doing and will obviously be a dedicated nurse, given what he’s given up.
The house’s inhabitants are a likeable bunch: the workaholic-lawyer Becky; Jess, enamoured of books; Alex, dedicated future nurse; Emma, not sure what Emma does, but she’s sexy and blonde; and lastly the Scot, elusive, works-at-all-hours chef Rob. The novel consists of A LOT of drinking among these housemates. They seem to enjoy each other’s company while maintaining independent lives. Jess and Alex strike a friendship when they start and continue to go on long Sunday walks as Alex unwinds and fulfills a promise to show Jess how to navigate her new city-home.
In truth, my favourite character of the entire novel was the city of London itself, which I’ve visited twice and LOVED. Because it’s paired with Jess and Alex, I ended up liking them as a portrait of an engaging, growing friendship, relationship-compatibility-alert!, more together than I ever did apart, especially Alex. The novel took a nose-dive when Alex’s voice, and subsequent actions, kick in. Alex can be funny, down-to-earth, and likeable when he’s with Jess, but on his own, in his own voice, he doth protest too much, thinking how he’s not a one-night-stand kind of guy, he yet falls into a “just sex” thing with Emma … over and over and over again. Meanwhile, Jess pines, eventually gives up hope, and moves on … except she doesn’t.
Suffice to say, there is a convincing HEA-epilogue for Jess and Alex, but the road is paved without romance and not much comedy. Curtis’s writing is engaging and her portrayal of friendship, among Jess’s friends and within Becky’s knocked-together-household, is lovely. I also enjoyed the novel’s seasonal and cyclical structure, starting at meet-cute Christmas and ending up in the same place with avowals of love and togetherness. But I did wish, in the interim, for more between Jess and Alex than one lone pinky touch. With Miss Austen, we would say that We Met In December offers “real comfort,” Emma.
Rosie Curtis’s We Met In December is published by William Morrow. It was released in November 2019 and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-galley from William Morrow, via Edelweiss+.