Book reviews

An (Un)Romantic Comedy by Phoebe MacLeod

Poppy is a therapist. You’d think her parents would be proud. But Poppy is the type of therapist that makes her mother cringe – she helps people with their, ahem , bedroom problems…

Normally Poppy deals with her difficult family – two parents, one brother, a couple of sisters and an assortment of nieces and nephews – by keeping at least a County or two between them. But with her little sister about to get married there’s no avoiding the week-long family holiday in Cornwall. The trip was always going to be a catastrophe, but Poppy never imagined how much her family needed her professional skills… Nor did she expect to meet a sexy surfer on what was supposed to be the most unromantic holiday ever.

Can a nightmare holiday lead to the love of a lifetime?

I have really enjoyed the last two books I have read by MacLeod. There is something witty and relatable about her characters.

Take this one for example. Poppy has, for a long time, felt like the family misfit. Her mother has made no bones about being ashamed of the fact that her daughter is a sex therapist – though that is a whole misunderstanding that I feel would spoil something by revealing.

Sacrificing a full week of holiday to spend time with her family in Cornwall as her youngest sister is getting married, and she is not looking forward to the event at all. The thought of being with all these judgemental people who make her feel less than is not at all appealing – and you can totally understand why.

Of course, it starts with her being almost late for the first night because of traffic and other events outside of her control, but her mother is on her immediately.

As the black sheep myself, I can identify with a lot of what Poppy feels as she tries her best to make the most of the time away from work and solving other people’s problems. But as the week goes on you see her family opening up to her more, including the sister she always struggled to get on with, Rose. She offers her family advice, comfort and support and this building of relationships is exactly what they all needed.

Sam…oh Sam is the light of the book in my view. Poppy isn’t really looking for a relationship, but he manages to show her that he’s not just in it for a one-night stand, though there were a few moments when I felt a bit of dread he was going to prove to be just like feckless Stuart – the younger brother of her sister Lily’s fiance, Dan.

There are such a wonderful collection of characters in this book, and every single one of them is different. Poppy’s mother is so disapproving of her daughter’s career without having any real understanding of what it is she does. For some reason, she has this vision of her daughter watching couples having sex and then making judgements on their technique (has she been watching old episodes of Kath and Kim?). Then there’s her older sister, who took delight in getting Poppy in trouble as a child and this has helped to establish the distance between the two. But when Rose needs her, Poppy steps in to offer advice and support (despite it putting her in something of an awkward situation).

Her younger sister, Lily, seems to be the light of her parents’ eyes, and is decidedly prudish, which makes her the perfect foil for Poppy and her less-than-closed-minded attitude. The meeting between Poppy and Lily’s future in-laws is perfection. She is herself and these people accept her and actually seem to understand more about her career and the help she provides to people than her family ever has. This is surprising given the way that her mother is so determined to make Poppy pretend to be something she isn’t because she describes Dan’s family as being incredibly staid and sensible and is positive that they will absolutely disapprove of Poppy’s career choice.

One moment that truly surprised me was the conversation that Poppy ended up having with her sister’s oldest daughter, 10-year-old Olivia. A relatively detailed but very sensitively handled discussion about sex, all because there’s a boy at her school who has been given information he probably shouldn’t have been. That particular conversation was horrifying if only because you know that there is something pretty accurate about this topic and young children.

If there is one thing I had to pick out and say I wasn’t 100% happy about, it’s the abrupt ending. This does seem like a MacLeod thing as I have noticed it in previous books. I would like a bit of closure, rather than a fade to black, but I guess that’s a personal thing.


  • The family dynamic, they were all different and had their issues but it felt real
  • Poppy rising above all the assumptions of her family and facing them
  • The fact that it dealt with some pretty serious topics, such as revenge porn sensitively


  • The abrupt ending
3-5 star rating
Category: Book reviews
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