Ballard, Falcon. Lease on Love. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2022. ISBN 978-0593419915 352 pp. $16
When misogyny rears its ugly head and Sadie is passed over for a promotion because they went with the boss’s new son-in-law (who has ZERO experience), Sadie’s profanity-laden spouting off leads to her termination. In her wallowing, she decides now might be the time to cheer herself up with online dating (she’s more of a one-night stand type). In one of the best meet-cutes EVER, she sits down for date only to discover the dude in front of her is looking for a roommate, actually. His brownstone is gorgeous and rent is low, so Sadie leaps in and then opts to moonlight as a bartender while she pursues her true passion: floral arranging with local, in-season blooms and found objects as the receptacles.
This is not another NYC 20-something romance. For one thing, Sadie is self-proclaimed supremely annoying. Self-deprecating to a nearly self-abusive fault, she is a bit messy in all aspects of her slap-dash life, has a running verbal diatribe, and is wonderfully redeemed by her warm generosity and humor. Jack, the roommate, is a nerdy gamer reclusive man of mystery who slowly opens up to Sadie, treats her like gold, and intimates he’s interested but just not ready. And shockingly, Ms. One Night Stand realizes A. she wants to bone him and 2. she hasn’t so much as flirted with anyone else in five months because Jack is becoming her everything.
This rom-com has the requisite first kiss… but a more real, welcome, realistic and thank goodness less rare let’s take our time and find mutual satisfaction with consent and patience, and rather than gory details of the first time they have penetrative (it took me like 4 tries to spell that, friends) sex, we glimpse the first time after testing without the condom, and it’s sweet and exquisite and intimate. Obvs, there is the declaration of love, followed by too many secrets, a falling out, and making up–but again, with sweetness and patience and realism.
The diverse supporting characters in this novel are FANTASTIC. Sadie’s ride or die crew are her college suitemates Gemma, a frustrated schoolteacher of Asian descent who wants to make food for a living and Harley, an African-American public defender; and wealthy Nick, who has been hanging around them since college (a nice subplot is his crushing on Harley). They rally whenever Sadie needs something, and befriend Jack (he and Nick have a special bond), even inviting him into the group text chat. The way they all make a family is rich and believable.
There were a few times I found Sadie’s voice a little over the top… and then she redeemed herself by revealing past trauma, or her friends defended her behavior. She was a fully realized, flawed character deserving of love who implements techniques from therapy… and goes back when she needs to do more work.
This was a fast but delicious read, with fun artistic details of becoming a florist and starting your own business and figuring who you are, and who you want to be in your twenties. The cover art feels a little more island-y than Brooklyn, and there was a LOT of drinking (I might be old and judgy) that made me a feel a little out of touch with youth culture, but ultimately this was a very satisfying read.
I received an advance reader’s review copy of #LeaseOnLove via #NetGalley.