The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth | Book review
Saoirse doesn’t believe in love at first sight or happy endings. If they were real, her mother would still be able to remember her name and not in a care home with early-onset dementia. A condition that Saoirse may one day turn out to have inherited. So she’s not looking for a relationship. She doesn’t see the point in igniting any romantic sparks if she’s bound to burn out.
But after a chance encounter at an end-of-term house party, Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.
Unbothered by Saoirse’s no-relationships rulebook, Ruby proposes a loophole: They don’t need true love to have one summer of fun, complete with every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up—and a binding agreement to end their romance come fall. It would be the perfect plan, if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters actually fall in love . . . for real.
I felt it was a little risky going into The Falling In Love Montage – would it be so sweet I would come out crying and having my disastrous yearning sapphic state amplified by 100? – but actually, it was rather balanced. The romance was fun and soft, and I really enjoyed Saoirse’s family dynamics – her relationship with her mother, who has dementia, and her struggles with her father, who is getting remarried.
Led by Saoirse, it was really refreshing to have such a clearly queer main character – Saoirse uses the lesbian label multiple times, there’s a lot of sapphic kissing and sapphic fantasising, and her feelings about her ex-girlfriend Hannah are contended with (which actually isn’t something I’ve seen a lot before, ex-girlfriends being more than a drop-in line in contemporary F/F books, and I really enjoyed as a result). It does make this a really strong F/F rom-com. That said, despite this being put forward as a rom-com, I found myself a little more emotionally invested in Saoirse’s relationship with her mother, and her struggle to accept her mother’s dementia and what it means for her. It was a really touching storyline, and parts really choked me up at points.
As for Saoirse as a heroine . . . admittedly I found her a little frustrating at points, but this did allow for a clear and very nice arc of character development. She’s a very different character at the end of The Falling in Love Montage. Also, this is a YA novel; Saoirse’s actions were very befitting of a teenager and they did fuel points of the plot. That said, Ruby (her love interest, who is plus-sized and body-positive btw!) is a wonderfully level-headed character with a lot more maturity, and I do think a lot of the time she was the bigger person in the relationship and apologised for things that weren’t necessarily her fault. She was kind and understanding, and generally was very chill and seemed like a great and supportive person to date, really. Also, Beth, Saoirse’s father’s new fiance? Actually a lovely person, really glad Saoirse eventually finds common ground with her in the end. (Also shout out to Barbara, that wild wedding shop owner/tailor.)
There was also Saoirse’s friendship with Oliver, who goes to her school and who is Ruby’s cousin. Oliver turns from Saoirse’s low-key enemy to her ally, and the book is interspersed with their text messages to each other. They were honestly very funny, and Oliver has his own little plot all about not exactly fitting in to any friendship group, and generally he was a really nice addition to the book. More books with supportive girl-guy friendships please.
What I took away from The Falling in Love Montage is that it is a book is about taking opportunities as they come and living in the moment, but it is also about how it’s okay to let things go. There’s a really lovely quote that resonated with me:
I do believe there’s a right person for you at different times of your life. Whether that relationship lasts a week or fifty years is not what makes it special.
Yeah, that was a good one. Because people are always changing, and sometimes people won’t always fit you. And then there are people who will always fit you, and change alongside you. And yet, it doesn’t mean that one is necessarily better than the other. This is something that really struck me, as someone who seems to be growing distant from a few friends I was closer to when I was younger.
Something I’d also like to mention is that The Falling in Love Montage is IRISH and by an IRISH AUTHOR and set in IRELAND and that’s really exciting to me, I love seeing UKYA being widely appreciated! Especially LGBTQ+ UKYA lit, it makes me proud. If I was to recommend a UKYA F/F Rom-Com, this would be the one.
Representation and content warnings
Rep: #ownvoices on-page lesbian heroine; plus size love interest
Content warnings: Dementia and family trauma, which could be triggering for some. This list is not conclusive. Please use caution if you think you may be affected by any of these things.
TL;DR: The Falling in Love Montage is a very sweet UKYA sapphic rom-com with a clearly labelled lesbian heroine (and a plus-sized love interest) that also has a very thoughtful and touching narrative about family.
Readers may also enjoy
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran*
*although Fantasy, this is F/F YA by another Irish author
Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth
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