Cover Image: The Couple

The Couple

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This novel wasn’t at all what I expected, it was much better. In The Couple, the author depicts a cynic world where being single is conventional and ordinary, where couples are not well-welcomed nor accepted, where love is rejected and leads only to heartache and unhappiness.

The protagonist of the story is Millie. She doesn’t believe in love and being in a relationship. All her life is based on a strict schedule that she follows diligently, and she has one goal: to become chief creative officer of the company she works for, Slide.

Ben is Millie’s opposite. He is impulsive, he is the “King of Chaos”, he is also funny, sweet, and Millie can’t stay away from him, especially when they start to work together to promote a pill that prevents from falling in love and that erases heartbreak.

The Couple is such a fun read! Ben and Millie’s chemistry, the witty and flirty dialogues, the stories of love and friendship, and the likable and relatable characters kept me completely engrossed in The Couple. I enjoyed Ben and Millie’s relationship, their easy friendship that developed in something more, the amusing text messages they exchanged, their banter, and their differences made for an entertaining and addictive read.

The Couple is a superb rom-com with dystopian elements that exceeded my expectations and that I keep thinking about it. I enjoyed the author’s writing style and I look forward to reading more of her novels.
Was this review helpful?
I loved the concept of this book. It turns the status quo completely on its head and in this world, being single is regarded as the sane, healthy choice whereas being in a couple is seen as strange and something to be ashamed of.

Millie works at Slide, an app for no-strings hook-ups. She is ambitious but risk aversive and terrified of change. Her goal is to become chief creative officer but she is up against fellow Slider, Sasha. The decision will be made following a new campaign. To promote a new product. Oxytoxin. A pill that will mend broken hearts, or even prevent people ever falling in love. The only fly in the ointment is new employee Ben. Partnered with Millie, they have an instant connection. She feels flustered around him and is happy in his presence. But Ben is a free spirit and contrary to most, he believes in love and wants to be part of a couple. As they spend more time together, their growing feelings cannot be ignored. But Millie does not want to fall in love. She cares what other people think. She doesn't want to deviate from her life plan.

Ben becomes increasingly repulsed by Slide's campaign, and ultimately quits. Declaring his love for Millie, she is faced with a choice. Carry on being cynical and live a safe, predictable life. Or take a leap of faith and give her and Ben a chance.

Witty, interesting and original, The Couple is a brilliant read that raises some interesting questions.
Was this review helpful?
Is there anything worse, as the only single person in a sea of couples, than feeling as though you’re being pitied? Or when all the smug pairs start making “helpful” suggestions as to how you might go about “fixing” your obviously empty and meaningless life?! 🙄😡

In her new novel, The Couple, Helly Acton turns societal norms on their heads, in the most brilliant way! What if being in a romantic relationship was actually largely seen as undesirable? And being in a couple, something you’re expected to be embarrassed or ashamed of? Perhaps scientists have even come up with a pill you can take, to cure you of romantic love for good.

Millie is completely happy with her single life. She has it all: the career, the social life, the (slightly grumpy) cat. She’s in line for a big promotion, if only she can come up with a fabulous campaign to launch Oxytoxin, a pill that prevents people from falling in love. The only problem is that she has been teamed up with Ben, the new guy, and she feels an instant connection. She tries to shake off her growing feelings towards him. After all, her mother, her friends, and even her alter ego, sensible Millie, wouldn’t approve. Needless to say, a battle between her head and her heart ensues… but which one will win..?

It took me 50 pages or so to fully wrap my head around and embrace the attitude switch, but once I was in I was ALL IN. If you’ve read Helly Acton’s debut novel, The Shelf, you’ll know that she has this incredible knack for writing the most amazingly, vivid, diverse and likeable cast of characters, and she’s smashed it again here in The Couple. I kind of fancied Ben, totally admired Millie, fell in love with her “sister” June, and I was fully invested in all their escapades.

It is a smart, warm and funny book, which is equally really thought-provoking in terms of the commentary on society’s views on being single. I think it would make an excellent book club choice, because there’s just so much to think about and discuss. Suspend disbelief a little bit, grab a cuppa and dive in – you won’t regret it!

With thanks to Zaffre for gifting me a digital copy to review.
Was this review helpful?
This book spoke to me on many levels as although I’m happy on my own with no intention of ever changing that I still love the idea of romance and happy ever after (just not for me). So to me the prospect of a book where being single is normal and coupledom is seen as peculiar was something I was on board for.

I may have nearly twenty years on Millie but I’m happily single and also have a feline flat mate, although mine isn’t an angry little bastard like hers. She is a great protagonist and I warmed to her straight away even though she’s my complete opposite and is a balled up mess of anxiety. Talking of complete opposites and I can’t help but smile as I think of Ben aka Mr Walking Chaos. This clumsy, no filter Welshman is her new work colleague at Slide, the fastest growing no strings sex app and they are about to launch a pill to stop you falling in love.

He is utter perfection in a romantic lead (quick give me a pill). He’s smart, funny and completely and utterly hopeless in a wonderfully charming way and I adored him. The chemistry between them was instant and it put a big fat smile on my face every time they interacted.

I take my hat off to the author, well I would if I wore one. She’s created a highly original concept by turning a stereotypical romance idea completely topsy turvy and after reading her introduction I knew this was the book for me.

Helly Acton has a real affinity with her characters that has come from her own experience and it shows. Filled with humour and wonderful friendships this is a book for all those that know it’s better to be single than settle and for all the smuggies too.
Was this review helpful?
I read  this authors debut book, The Shelf, last summer and really enjoyed it so when the chance to read her latest novel came around I jumped at the chance. I love how easy this authors work is to read even though it is always packing some big punches.

I really enjoyed how the author flipped the norm and really exposed how much is put on marriage in our culture, things I didn't even really think about like the tax benefits to being married or even just in a couple is something that I have always just taken as a given but really why are people being penalized for being single?

The chemistry between the two main characters felt real and I could feel the tension simmering between them. The concept of Oxytoxin pill was frightening and yet such a clever idea, I really hope it never gets invented 🤣

For me the ending felt at odds with the whole tone of the book although saying that I would have been disappointed if it didn't end that way so I think I must have been in a contrary mood!

This is definitely one your going to want to pick up this summer and I can't wait to see what this author brings us next.
Was this review helpful?
The Couple is a totally different book to anything I have read recently, set against the backdrop of government encouraging people to stay single and offering financial benefits this story took me a while to get my head around.

Millie is a strong level headed lead female character in this story and she has set her success against the goals she set herself in childhood and is working hard to achieve them within the set timescales. She works for a company who are embracing that normal is people not in a couple and when she gets asked to work on a proposal for a drug to stop you falling in love she knows this is her chance to achieve her dream job. Working alongside Ben for the project Millie starts to question who should take be offered the drug and whether taking something so final is really the answer, especially when Ben believes in couples and true love.

A story that is focused on creating a totally different normal to what we are used too, I found once my brain had shifted gear and was starting to see relationships as being against the norm I really enjoyed this book. Ben was a whirlwind character, full of life and vibrance and the polar opposite to Millie which created a wonderful contrast and many amusing moments as you read.

A concept that I had never even considered before that being in a couple isn’t normal, this book made me think both whilst reading it and drew my attention to think about it inbetween times as well. Thought provoking and mind blowing whilst trying to train your brain to think differently. A really enjoyable read, that is a bit like marmite and I love marmite!!
Was this review helpful?
The Couple is a very unusual, unique and alternative take on the romantic love story. We are always used to everything geared up for boy meets girl, or girl meets girl or whichever takes your fancy. And those people embark on a journey of love. Basically two singletons looking for love. 

Well Helly Acton has turned that notion on its head. In this storyline the mere thought of being in a couple is frowned upon. So much so that a company has invented a pill to stop you falling in love. 

Now there were times during the story that I just couldn't get my head round the whole idea. It's meant to be like a parallel universe where instead of singletons getting bad press it's the couples who get it. But I may be blinkered in life and don't necessarily see that being single is a bad thing. I'm in a happy relationship and I've been happily single. And I've never felt left out or negative in either situation. But that little confusion aside I did actually like the concept. Acton's little twists on life were great. For example instead of Valentine's Day in The Couple they celebrated Bridget's Day. What a genius idea and one I could actually see working in real life. 

The main characters in The Couple are Millie and Ben. Chalk and cheese, opposite personalities but the chemistry between them was fantastic. It's obviously because Ben is Welsh. You got to love a Welsh person right? 😊 (Guess where I'm from?) 

The Couple is a quirky take on the romantic storyline. But it still has all the wonderful elements that is needed to bring it all together.
Was this review helpful?
This wasn’t a book I’d heard of before, but the premise intrigued me. Even so, I was on and off as to whether I actually wanted to read it after all. That being said, I’d made a commitment, and I needed to give the book a chance.

And I did enjoy it!

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I felt like it was chick-lit with speculative fiction vibes. And I feel like that probably is the best way to describe it.

Millie works at Slide, a hook-up app in a world where being a couple is seen as weird and being single is encouraged. When a new position opens up, Millie needs to find a way to promote a new pill. One that will stop people from falling in love. A new guy at work makes her wonder if she should take the pill; or whether she would be missing out.

The prospect of how society is so different is what really pulls this book together. From the slight changes in song titles – Love Me Like I Do anyone? – to changes within taxes and just the fact the f word is replaced with slide. It’s all these little things, and it makes the world feel totally different to our own. Whilst still remaining the same.

I will say that some of the changes made me wonder. I’m single and have been for a long time. But I don’t have people acting like it’s gross that I’m alone, and my life isn’t that much harder. Some of the issues couples were having felt more like issues that queer people have in our world. So it was interesting to see them in a different light. And it did make them seem all the more ridiculous than they already are. But it was definitely a hmm moment. That being said, queerness seems to be perfectly okay in this world. Many of the women were looking at and sleeping with other women. I didn’t see any men talking this way or any talk of other genders, which would have been nice. But it was refreshing to see the queerness just be there.

Millie was a good protagonist for the book. I won’t lie I probably wouldn’t have been fond of her in a lot of other books. As she very much doesn’t like change. I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe she has OCD or something similar. But she worked for this one. You could see how hard she wanted things to stay the same whilst she was also discovering more about herself and the world. You got a deep dive into the couple’s issues through her as she worked on a campaign for this pill. And that really helped build the readers understanding of the world.

There obviously was romance, and it was pretty cute. Ben is a chaotic mess, and he likes it that way. From his talk of travel to his hangman puzzles and clown costume – no, I’m not going into detail about that as spoilers – I absolutely loved him. He’s a guy that I could very easily fall for. And I liked seeing him helping Millie open up.

Friendships were just as important. And though some of Millie’s seemed questionable to start with, by the end, you could see that they really were all there for each other. Differences between wanting to be single or in a couple aside. These women all love each other and want happiness for each other. There was a real focus on friendship in this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed that.

I really wasn’t sure what I’d think about this book, but I enjoyed it. If you’re on the fence at all, I highly suggest picking it up anyway and giving it a go. You won’t regret it.
Was this review helpful?
This was a great read. Imagine our world where the ‘norm’ is to be single. Being in ‘a couple’ is frowned upon and couples pay higher taxes and rent. 

Our main character, Millie, works on an app called ‘Slide’ where people connect for no strings sex and then rate each other. Millie likes routine, has a life plan and while she doesn’t ‘Slide’ often, she doesn’t want to be in a couple. 

Ben, a clumsy, adventurous, fly by the seat of his pants kinda guy, starts working in Millie’s department and they team up to work on the advertising for the company’s new project... Oxytocin. An antidote to love! Take 2 pills and never fall in love again, or no longer have feelings for that person who broke your heart!

It was a great premise. A little predictable but a fast, fun, enjoyable read. 

I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
The Couple is a great twist on a regular romance. Society today tells us that to be happy and successful we all need to be in relationships. This book turns that on its head. The single life is the way to live and people who coupled up are seen as outsiders. They always need to justify why they are in a couple and even get punished by higher taxes.

29 year old Millie works at Slide, the world's fastest-growing strings-free sex app. She and her group of single friends enjoy their life. Millie has a type-A personality and has had a plan for her life since she was 16. It is all very career focused and she lives for itineraries and routine. Being in a relationship would completely ruin that. She believes that you don't need a relationship to be happy and you shouldn't rely on someone else to bring you happiness.

Ben comes to work for Slide after relocating to London from the Cardiff branch. He and Millie click instantly. A new pill is developed, Oxytoxin, which is an antidote to love. Millie and Ben are paired together to come up with a creative way to brand it. 

This is a very interesting read and not like anything I've read before. Not only does it explore love and relationships, but it was interesting to hear about Millie's work life and how she deals with setbacks. I loved her character development. Ben helps Millie see that work doesn't have to be her entire life.

I absolutely loved how any songs mentioned were reversed to be aimed towards self love like 'Love Me Like I Do' and 'Nothing Compares 2 Me'. It is very clever!

This is the first book I have read by Helly Acton, although I do have a copy of her novel The Shelf. I will definitely be reading it soon as I loved The Couple so much!
Was this review helpful?
Imagine a world where being single was the norm and those in relationships were viewed as not only unusual, but less-than. Or a world where there’s a drug designed to prevent you falling in love. That is the world of The Couple, the delightful new book by Helly Acton. This book was a joy to read from beginning to end. A glorious mix of humorous, warm and compelling writing, the author also examines and challenges our perceptions of society, life and love. 

I adored Millie and Ben. Millie is a Type-A personality, a demure perfectionist with a love of schedules, order and control. She knows what she wants to achieve and won’t let anything get in her way. Yet there is also a vulnerability to her in her eagerness to please, concern about what others think and the panic attacks she suffers from. And then there’s Ben. Ben is ebullient, spontaneous, chaotic, adventurous and doesn’t care what others think. But he is also funny, kind, thoughtful and charming. I could see why Millie fell for him. The author expertly conveys Millie’s torment over her feelings for Ben and how the idea of even a crush, let alone being in love or having a relationship filled her with dread and a sense that there was something wrong with her. Their chemistry leapt from the pages and while it might seem cheesy and predictable, I found it well written, hopeful and authentic. It was impossible not to root for them and hope they would have the happy ending they deserve.

At the beginning of the book the author explains that she wanted to write a book for the happy single people who are tired of being made to feel ‘less than’ because they’re not in a relationship. There is a lot of societal pressure to be part of a couple, meaning some settle for unhappy, bad or toxic relationships just to be part of one. It was fascinating to see how the world could look if the roles were reversed. I enjoyed the discussions between those on different sides of the debate and thought that the addition of a new drug that is the antidote for love was a brilliant and thought-provoking concept. For all the heartache and struggles that love can sometimes bring, do we really want to live in a world without romantic love? 

All the stars for this funny, entertaining and uplifting book that gave me all the feels. A refreshing twist on the usual love story, I devoured it quickly. Perfect to lose yourself in, I highly recommend you read this book.
Was this review helpful?
A short while ago I listened to Helly Acton’s previous book; The Shelf on audiobook thanks to Netgalley and I enjoyed it. Although I did say in hindsight I’d have probably enjoyed it even more if I actually read it. (I get too easily distracted when listening 🙈)

Because I had enjoyed it I jumped at the chance of joining the blog tour for her new book - getting a digital copy to actually read this time!

I have to say I’m absolutely gutted I’ve finished it! I absolutely loved this book and spent the whole time with a smile on my face, I just loved Millie and Ben and the dynamic that happened between them. 

This book has a really nice and different approach, it’s all based on the notion that being on a couple is weird, risky, and just not the norm. Instead single people get tax breaks, have cheaper hotel bills and apparently live longer and happier. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this at first, personally, whether you’re single or in a relationship doesn’t have make any difference to how I feel about a person. And I can see both sides of the argument but ultimately, different things make people happy and ultimately - you do you and make yourself happy, whatever that entails! 

Straying away from the serious side of this though, the book was such a happy book most of the time and I flew through it, just didn’t want to put it down. So much so that I think I may take my own little ‘Ken’ to the office on Tuesday - what do you think?!
Was this review helpful?
A really unique and interesting idea for a story, where in a slightly alternative reality to ours being single is the norm and relationships are looked down on. As someone who has chosen to be single, the clever way that Acton flipped the roles around really resonated with me and I highly appreciated her challenging the norms and prejudices of our relationship culture.

The pairing of Millie and Ben were adorable together, with some really witty banter keeping the feel of the story light while discussing some deeper issues.

I did find the story dragged a bit towards the end, with the same points being repeated but overall really interesting and enjoyable read.
Was this review helpful?
The Couple is based in an alternate world where the relationship ‘norms’ are flipped on their head. People aspire to be single and look down on those in a couple as they believe they aren’t happy enough alone. People are more career focused and are actively encouraged to not be in a relationship and there is a certain shame that seems to be tied with it. Household bills and taxes are even higher if you’re a couple household so there’s a financial incentive to be single.

Millie is in her 30s and working for ‘Slide’ - a no strings attached app which people use for hook ups. Working her way up the corporate ladder is easy when she’s proud of her work, very conscientious and believes in Slide’s goal. Slide then develop a drug called Oxytoxin that prevents you from ever falling in love and she’s tasked with working on the pitch with Ben. Even though they’re polar opposites in every way, Millie starts to feel things she’s never felt before and Ben, who has couple parents, doesn’t help the situation either! Will she go against the social norm for the guy she thinks she might actually love? 

This book is really engaging and definitely a conversation starter. It brings to light the social pressure there is to be married and have children. When this is flipped onto the reverse in this book I think it highlights what a ridiculous expectation this is and that everyone should just live the lifestyle that makes them happy. This is a super interesting concept that’s written really well by Helly Acton. I’d definitely recommend this book and I can’t wait to pick up ‘The Shelf’.
Was this review helpful?
I was really impressed with the alternate world that Acton has set for this book. In this world, being in a relationship is not the norm (it’s even stigmatised by some!) and there’s some serious disadvantages for those who decide to go steady with their true love. Acton has managed to weave into this story humour, a bit of that slow build romance (and the associated will they/won’t they?) and of course a bit of drama. I loved the slow build of Millie and Ben’s relationship - can we just take a moment to reflect on how amazing he is! This is a definite recommended read.
Was this review helpful?
After reading The Shelf I was immediately converted into a big Helly Acton fan. And...she's done it again! I've been left, once more, thinking hard about society and the treatment of others. It had me questioning my own morals, actions and outlook on relationships vs singledom and the way groups of people are represented. 

The whole uniqie concept of this story, the almost 'alternative reality' of the world and the instantly likeable characters had me yearning for more. With a great combination of friendship, humour and romance...what's not to like about this!
Was this review helpful?
This book had such a brilliant, clever concept: a world in which singledom is the norm and couples are the oddity. It was cleverly executed and the plot around the pill which would stop people from falling in love really gave one a lot to think about. 

The most enjoyable part of the story for me was the way in which Helly Acton subverted some of the norms in our own society, such as having a St Bridget’s day instead of St Valentine's day - so much fun.

Acton’s debut novel ‘The Shelf’ has been on MY to be read shelf for a while now and the fun of this book has really encouraged me to get on and read that book too. 

Many thanks to NetGalley and Zaffre books for kindly giving me this e-ARC. I really enjoyed it and recommend it for all fans of thoughtful, clever, romcoms.
Was this review helpful?
I read this after I read the Shelf, which I adored. I also loved this - what an incredibly unique concept. I’ve never read anything like this and the happily single me ate it up! It raised some amazing points about how people who are in a couple (would transfer to single people in the world we live in) and I related to almost every page. It was such an easy read that raisede such good points whilst you laughed along with the characters. One of my favourite things was St Bridgets day instead of Valentine’s Day - a stroke of genius! 

If you enjoy a rom com then you will love this, single or not! Helly - you knocked it out the park again!
Was this review helpful?
The Couple is such a great story - based in an almost alternative reality where singledom is the norm, this funny and refreshing take on life is fabulous. Millie is a fantastic main character - focussed and determined, she loves her single life with her friends but then meets Ben, who manages to turn her life upside down. This book will make you question the norm and make you laugh out loud.
Was this review helpful?
I loved this book! Was a big fan of her first book but this blew it out the water for me. 

Acton is fantastic at writing feminist, subversive “women’s fiction” and setting up an ending where you know what’s going to happen and are excited to get there with her. 

The society pictured in The Couple is really well done and I enjoyed the way she took all of the expectations of couple-hood and did a full 180. All her characters are fleshed out enough so you know their flaws, but good people that you root for to have the ending that she expertly sets you up for. Will definitely be watching out for what she writes in future.
Was this review helpful?