“Why does my perfect meet-cute have to be so bloody convoluted?” It’s not a question that most rom-com heroines find themselves asking very often, but Laura Le Quesne isn’t your average leading lady. Author Sophie Cousens has created what feels like a real love letter to early ‘00s rom-com movies in her second novel Just Haven’t Met You Yet, and she has a lot of fun in bringing her readers in on the journey with lots of tongue-in-cheek references, knowing winks, comforting tropes and clever subversions. The result is a very charming and very enjoyable novel that celebrates the warmth and magic of a good love story while also serving as a gentle reminder that meet-cutes and supposed happily-every-afters don’t always tell the whole story.
Self-proclaimed hopeless romantic Laura Le Quesne has made a career out of telling other people’s love stories, but when it comes to her own love life things are considerably less straight-forward. While she interviews couples about the moment they knew the other was ‘The One’ for work, Laura’s own personal life seems to have stalled and she’s beginning to feel like she’s the only one of her friends who hasn’t got her life together yet – not to mention her own dating prospects keep falling short of the wonderfully romantic story she’s been told of her parents’ own whirlwind romance 30 years earlier.
But when Laura finds herself in Jersey on a work trip, it seems that she may finally be about to get a meet-cute of her very own. After picking up the wrong suitcase by mistake at the airport, Laura opens it and finds clues that it belongs to the man of her dreams and Laura knows that this is the sign she’s been waiting for. Armed with a plan to track down the suitcase’s mystery owner, prove their connection and have a romantic story of her very own to tell their grandchildren, Laura sets out on an adventure around Jersey with a friendly cab driver named Ted as she retraces the steps of her mum and dad’s relationship and hopes to secure her own happy ending. Fate, however, might just have some other ideas, and it’s not long before Laura’s left questioning just what, exactly, makes a good love story after all.
Am I thinking like a crazy person? Probably. But there’s something about this that feels so real. Everything about this man in this case, it all fits with my story, It is too perfect not to mean something, for it not to be a sign.”
With a Leap Year-style premise, a boss-from-hell straight out of The Devil Wears Prada and a Princess Diaries-like makeover scene – among many others – it quickly becomes clear where a lot of the inspiration for this novel and Laura’s story comes from. Just Haven’t Met You Yet is pretty much everything we love about rom-coms wrapped up in an infinitely readable package, and it’s just as joyful, entertaining and ridiculous (in all of the best ways) as those movies we grew up with, hitting all the familiar story beats and embracing comforting tropes too. What makes the novel all the more enjoyable, however, is the fact that the novel makes no secret about what it’s doing, with lots of knowing conversations, winks and nods to the genre and lots of other meta-moments that make the act of reading the novel just as much fun as the story itself.
Just like any good rom-com movie, the love story at the heart of Just Haven’t Met You Yet is an endearing one, filled with the kind of coincidences, conflict and joyful interactions you’d expect in a romance. Laura is a wonderful lead character; she’s funny, endearingly self-aware and a real people person with a knack for forming connections, which leads to a lot of interesting conversations with a wide variety of people. Her connection with cab driver Ted is one born of some typical movie-level mad-cap meetings, but it’s given the time to develop into something genuine and heartfelt, with both Ted and Laura bringing out the best in one another even as Laura’s determination to track down Mystery Suitcase Guy never wavers – although it does lead her into some increasingly implausible situations.
Scratch beyond that love story surface, however, and this novel also delivers a heartening story of self-love as Laura’s journey and adventures help her realise what she really wants out of life and, especially, a relationship. After holding on to the picture-perfect ideal of her parents’ own impossibly perfect romance, Laura’s trip to Jersey slowly opens her eyes to the idea that the story she has grown up with isn’t necessarily the complete picture. The brief snippets of news articles and personal letters telling the real story that are interspersed throughout the novel are a great reminder that there’s more than one side to every story and Just Haven’t Met You Yet gently explores this idea of the reality of love and relationships in real life, as it breaks down the idealistic notion of love being like the movies, whether it’s in the unpicking of Laura’s parents’ ‘perfect’ love story, or Laura’s own lament that making her meet-cute happen is proving more difficult than expected.
Just Haven’t Met You Yet is a story about love, yes, but it’s also a novel that explores family, community, friendships, passion and so much more in a warm and funny package. With a wonderful cast of supporting characters (and enough truly beautiful descriptions of Jersey that the island feels like a character in and of itself), a quick narrative pace and a charming story, Sophie Cousens’ second novel has built on everything that made her first novel, This Time Next Year, a success and crafted it into something that feels just a little more polished and a little more confident, and it all makes for the kind of book that you’ll breeze through in an evening or two with a big smile on your face.
Just Haven’t Met You Yet is published by Arrow on 11 November 2021