I’m not really a people person (yeah, that’s not breaking news) so the idea of sharing my space with someone who is not my wife or my daughter makes me cringe. I lived with two flatmates for a year when I was a student in Scotland and did my best to politely avoid them as often as I could. Even friends staying with us for a weekend is exhausting. So I could totally relate to Rae’s uncertainty about sharing an apartment with someone she didn’t know.
After months on the road, Steph has decided to settle back in Los Angeles and give her career as a comic its last chance. She’ll be thirty in a few months and she has vowed that she’d make it by then or try another path. Her sister and her sister’s fiancée (Claire and Lana from Just for Show) have agreed to let her use their guest room but when Steph hears about the perfect apartment, she has to have it. The only problem is, the landlord won’t rent to single people or roommates. Rae is the new girl working security at one of the biggest clubs in L.A. A former cop, she’s had to change careers after her life got turned upside down in tragic circumstances a few months ago. She’s earnest and private, and obviously well-respected by her new colleagues. When she first meets Steph, the bubbly and chatty comic grates on her. But she needs a new place so she agrees to pretend they’re a couple so they can get this perfect apartment.
Fake romance novels are definitely in vogue lately, and some are wonderful (one of my favorite is G Benson’s Who’d Have Thought) but in this book, the fake romance is only the starting point. It’s far from the whole story, since Rae and Steph only have to pretend when their landlord and landlady are around. For most of the book, they actually have to remind their friends and loved ones that they are definitely not a couple. But of course that’s only because it takes them longer than others to see the chemistry between them, and the fragile and at first reluctant friendship that seems, to them, to come out of nowhere. The two women are very different people, from very different backgrounds (Steph’s family is filthy rich, Rae’s parents are hippies) and with very different life experiences. What Rae has gone through in recent months, and the hidden disability she’s had to get used to, make her cautious. She’s not used to accepting help or showing weakness and would like nothing more than to keep to herself. Steph, on the contrary, is friends with everyone. She’s also kind and understanding. And impossible not to like, as she herself points out.
The Roommate Arrangement is a very sweet story, with some angst (mostly on Rae’s part) but not too much. Maybe not enough. Rae’s character grows a lot in the course of a few months, and Jae tells it well. Steph doesn’t change much, she grows into herself more than anything.
This book can be read as a standalone. I didn’t remember Claire and Lana because my memory sucks, and I don’t think it took anything from the story. I’m totally re-reading Just for Show next, though.