Review: The Key to My Heart by Lia Louis

My Twitter pal Lia Louis has a new book out and it’s another deftly written rom com.

The Key to My Heart opens with Natalie, a young widow, being forced to chat up a bloke in a bar by her friends who all consider her ready to move on from her heartbreak and find a new fella. Of course, she is still grieving and the easiest thing to do is to pretend to talk to the chap, Tom, and hope that he’s not an arsehole. Luckily, he agrees to the ruse and she can save face and go home alone without any pressure.

(This is so absolutely a type that I remember well from school – those girls who couldn’t exist without there being a boy around, they would get through so many blokes simply because they had no idea how to be alone or thought it terrible to be single. Ugh.)

Anyway, it turns out Natalie’s friends aren’t as dreadful as they appear from this first scene and a good thing too. Lia’s books always do have fast-paced quick talking friends in them and I love how these books give me an insight into the quirky thoughts of people who are more emotionally available and able to articulate themselves than I ever was at the same age.

So, the plot in short – Natalie is a widow, still trying to get over the loss of her husband Russ and spending her time, when not at work, in St Pancras Station playing the piano or chatting to a mum-like figure who runs a coffee shop there. (As an aside, I can never decide if I like those public pianos or not. Sometimes I think, what a racket, but the last time I was in St Pancras I went up the escalator to go home accompanied by a man playing a jazzy version of Close to You and it was just lovely.) When a mysterious someone starts leaving sheet music on the piano – songs that have a meaning for her and her late husband, she starts to wonder if perhaps this is a sign that Russ is still out there somehow leaving music for her in a magical mysterious way. There are added complications – a row with her previous best friend that occurred at Russ’s funeral; a new friend that she finds at the musical therapy groups she joins and what to do with the country cottage that she and Russ managed to buy but not renovate before he died.

What I like about Lia’s books is that they cover massive life events that have a huge impact on people, and the characters come from a place of recovery – not just from a nasty break up but from something worse, in this case widowhood. So her books feel like they are there with you as you tackle ‘life’ rather than just being a fun way to spend a couple of hours reading a bit of romance. This is a big melting pot of grown up subjects but covered in a light touch way.

The book does feel quite provincial despite being set in London, and gives you the feeling that the metropolis is indeed the series of villages that urban myth speaks of. All in all, this is a romance for grown ups, millennials who are working through their angst on the outside. Another winner for Lia – and another reason why Jodi Picoult (the American master of this genre, some might say) calls Lia one of her favourite authors.

The Key to My Heart is published on 7 July by Orion and is available at all good bookshops

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