Juliet Miller, having splashed her divorce settlement on a swanky new flat, is searching for a flatmate to help with the mortgage and half-heartedly launching herself back into the dating scene. Half-heartedly because part of her can’t quite forgive her ex-husband for having an affair with her best friend and another part of her lusts after her handsome-and-knows-it boss although underneath she still hopes that is a man out there somewhere that she can trust with her heart and who will materialise before she’s forty. Florence Cherrydale, known as Floz, seems perfect: another thirty-something divorcee nursing a broken heart. A complication arises when Juliet’s twin, Guy, falls at Floz’s feet both literally (after tripping over the coffee table) and in love. Guy’s best friend, Steve, is holding an unrequited torch for Juliet. Can the foursome pair up or will they let past experience and broken hearts get in the way?
Actually I didn’t care: but this isn’t a negative point. By the end of the initial chapters the four main characters plus Juliet’s friend Coco, the man she lusts after and Guy’s boss had become so alive, I wanted to stick with them for the journey, regardless of where it took me. “An Autumn Crush” is definitely worth the ride and the characters live on beyond the final chapter.
“An Autumn Crush” isn’t just a frothy swirl of characters blown by circumstance and teased into revealing their true colours and loves. Both Guy and Floz have deftly handled tragedies in their pasts. Tricky subjects such as suicide and terminal illness are handled both sensitively and credibly with an appropriate touch that doesn’t try to moralise but lets the characters explain their actions in their own words and time. Just as in life, some characters are a vibrant red and gold, some are plain brown but the finely-judged pacing give the characters space to breathe without there being any dull moments.
It’s not just the characters that keep readers hooked. Milly Johnson has a genuine comic touch. There are no contrived scenarios, characters don’t do things for the sake of a touch of slapstick and there are no detours to enable something funny to happen. The comic touches genuinely arise out of the character’s natural behaviour and the age-old problem of the best laid plans and untended consequences. There’s a balance between the jokes and developing the plot. A lot of work went into making this a charming, delightful read and a perfect counter for a stressful day at work or a slice of lunch break escapism.