Love and Other Puzzles by Kimberley Allsopp

I have been in a MAJOR reading-rut. In fact, I’ve been faffing-about with two novels (both good, both stories that I’m enjoying) for a month (IKR?!). I decided I needed to change things up. So, I turned to a genre I very rarely read from – rom-com/ ‘chick-lit’ – and picked up Kimberley Allsopp’s debut, Love and Other Puzzles. It was everything I expected – light, warm, and pleasing in a way that a good rom-com always is (i.e. predictable but comforting, and no-loose-ends).

The story focuses on Rory, whose life is highly regimented (she calls it ‘very carefully managed’). She has weekly lunch and dinner menu plans; a basket for shoes at the front door; and checks the weather forecast before laying out her clothes for the next day. When things in Rory’s relationship and her job at a digital newspaper start to go wrong, Rory decides to shake things up by letting the clues of The New York Times crossword puzzle dictate all of her decisions for a week. It starts with raising her hand at a staff meeting to take on a task that others can’t complete, and that sets off a series of events that follow a perfect rom-com narrative arc.

Rory is a likeable character, and it’s clear from the outset that every part of her rails against her decision to let the crossword be her guide. But she is determined to stick with it, telling herself, ‘…there’s nothing wrong with structured whimsy…’.

The reasons for Rory’s intense need for control are revealed in her history – a mother who made occassional appearances in her life, anchored by loving grandparents who had very particular routines. Obviously Rory gravitated toward the routine/ reliable love.

The best part of this book was the multiple references to rom-com movies. Hard-core fans will no doubt spot more than I did, but there’s a list at the end of the book if you want to check them off. I’m not entirely sure that the intended audience (twenty-somethings?) would know all the eighties rom-coms that Allsopp incorporates, but then again, the work of Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyer is timeless.

This book did exactly what I wanted – provided a light, enjoyable diversion. It reminded me a little of Toni Jordan’s Addition, which I also enjoyed.

I received my copy of Love and Other Puzzles from the publisher, Harper Collins Australia, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.


…build the sandwich of our dreams – pastrami, Jarlsberg cheese, iceberg lettuce, Roma tomatoes, fresh mayonnaise, all on a sour dough roll. It is the greatest thing I’ve ever been part of and a year on, I still think of it with a pang when I eat my salads – on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Not quite the dream sandwich described by Rory, but the Italian Club comes close.

8 responses

  1. I actually like the sound of this but I’m so sick of these covers with women hiding their faces in despair ! I find that whenever I’m in a reading rut a fast-paced psychological thriller gets me out of it. I think ruts are just your brain’s way of saying it needs a rest, the bandwidth is all used up!

  2. Mood reading becomes all the more important when were in a reading rut, I’m glad you found the book that lead you out of it. I had a break all January and chose carefully coming back, I find engaging novellas work for me, short enough to read in a few days or a weekend.

  3. We all need a bit of diversion right now. Echoing Kim’s comments about the jacket. I’ve liked just one example of this trend – Claire Powell’s At the Table has a woman facedown in her dessert which seems to fit the blurb.

  4. I get through lots of audiobooks as I work. And I always try and mix in a and a favoured detective with the worthier books. (I love salad sandwiches but the ones I make are never as satisfying as the ones other people make for me}

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