When the papers are full of stories about journalists losing their jobs, what do you think those journos are going to do? In Sheila O’Flanagan’s latest novel, Better Together, Sheridan Grey is a smart, savvy sports journalist who has just been told that her job has been made redundant by the new owner of the Dublin newspaper where she works. Her flatmate and best friend, who also works at the same paper, has found a better offer with a glitzy fashion magazine in Belfast and so soon Sheridan won’t be able to keep up the rent on the beautiful apartment they share. But when she suggests to her boyfriend Griff that they move in together, to save money, he has a strong attack of commitment-phobia and dumps her.
With all that on her plate, it’s no wonder Sheridan thinks she’s reached the bottom of a very deep downslide which all started when her newspaper was bought out by Paudie O’Malley. So when her best friend’s aunt comes up with a job offer for a small-town paper in the village of Ardbawn, covering a maternity leave position, Sheridan thinks this might just be the light at the end of the tunnel. Until, that is, she realises that the small-town paper is owned by none other than Paudie O’Malley. Taken aback, she tries to find something that will keep her going and realises that her anger against O’Malley might be just the ticket. Maybe, she thinks, she can use the home-town advantage to gather some dirt on Paudie, maybe there is a secret just waiting for a hardnosed journo to uncover.
Sheridan takes her laptop and phone out to Ardbawn and settles in to Nina Fallon’s guesthouse. Nina, meanwhile, is suffering from divorce remorse. She’s just kicked out her actor husband Sean for having an affair with a young actress after their twenty-some years of marriage. But it’s not the affair which hurts her most, it’s the fact that she learnt about it from the newspaper, and what’s more that this isn’t the first time. But she misses having Sean around the place and when a letter from his solicitor arrives telling her that if she won’t take him back, he will expect to be paid out for his share of the guesthouse, she is devastated. In small-town Ardbawn, nothing is hidden for long and so when Sheridan accidentally finds some old paintings of Sean that obviously weren’t done by Nina, she finds out that here might be the O’Malley story she is after. Not to mention the fact that here, too, might be an answer for her own heartbreak when she meets the tall, dark and handsome Joe – but is he all he seems to be?
Charming, funny, and light-hearted, Sheila O’Flanagan’s latest novel is delightful reading, and definitely “better together” with a side of tea and biscuits.
Available now: Hachette RRP$29.99