Missing You opens as Sean returns home, flowers in hand, to try and save the marriage he had thought was perfect but his wife had not. He is sent packing nonetheless. With nowhere to go, a colleague arranges for him to lodge with Fen, a female friend of hers. The story then follows Sean’s struggle to move on from his separation, becoming more than a lodger in the process.
I’ve read many break-up stories from a woman’s perspective and I admire Louise Douglas for tackling that of a man’s. The story seems to have bypassed many of the clichés found in the romance genre. It’s not formulaic and characters aren’t airbrushed. They’re human with all their flaws. I particularly liked the way Sean and Fen grow into their true selves as their rebound relationship blossoms into something more. I wondered why Sean stuck so long with a wife who’s clearly confused about what she wants and I wished her every comeuppance for having an affair rather than talking to him about her issues.
Description is spot on in Missing You and sometimes loaded with meaning, like when Sean’s flowers are rejected by his wife during the opening: “The cellophane crackles and two petals fall at his feet”. Interestingly, there’s not an awful lot said about what some of the characters look like but I quite liked roaming free with my imagination and it’s probably one of the reasons this romance feels so fresh.
Despite the shadows caused by the breakup, there is a lot of light in this novel too, particularly when Sean becomes drunk after a difficult conversation with his wife and gets in a pickle with a loo, a towel and a bread bin. Added to this, the courage some of the characters have to embrace their responsibilities in spite of their pain makes Missing You surprisingly uplifting.
The pace is gentle although there are some sudden plot progressions and I was surprised at how forgiving some of the characters are. Even when conflict stretches on, melodrama is thankfully absent, making emotion much more powerful. The intensity is in what remains unsaid as well as what hides in the shadows.
Fen’s secrets are a little predictable but still, I wasn’t sure how they would transpire, so was pleased to be rewarded with some surprise. And, despite a satisfying ending, a little doubt is left hanging in the air. Shan’t spoilt that for you, but I felt this to be very true to life in which we don’t always get all the answers.
Overall, Missing You is one of the best romances I’ve read in a long time. A breathtaking rollercoaster of forgiveness, healing and moving on. If you love subtle, gently paced romances, you could well enjoy this one too.