Unexpected Roommates, Self-Partnering and a Han Solo Look-a-Like: One Night on the Island by Josie Silver (ARC)

A trip to a beautiful, remote Irish island with barely any people, an abundance of cake, and a hot photographer who bears a resemblance to a young Harrison Ford? Sign me up! After really enjoying Josie Silver’s One Day in December a few years ago, I was really excited to give One Night on the Island a read but, sadly, this wasn’t the romance for me.

Who, What, Where?

ONotI follows Cleo and Mack, two strangers who travel to Salvation Island in the hopes of finding some peace and quiet, and their creative muses. Cleo, a dating columnist and aspiring novelist dreading her 30th birthday, has been sent by her editor to do a feminist piece about self-coupling involving marrying herself. Meanwhile, Mack, a talented photographer with the charm and looks of Han Solo, has been struggling with the separation from his wife and being a good father to his boys. He hopes that visiting his grandmother’s hometown will bring him some perspective and comfort. The problem is, both Cleo & Mack claim to be staying at Otter Lodge. With boats to the mainland delayed due to bad weather and each person stubbornly resistant to leaving, they decide to bunker down together for the next few weeks and make the most of the situation.  

Less Romance, More Individual Journey

Part of the problem I had in gelling with ONotI is that I went into it with a misunderstanding about the type of novel it was. When I read One Day in December, I was very clear on the assignment: romantic drama. Yet, the setup and blurb for this book made me think it would be more in line with a romantic comedy. While it does have elements you’d find in a rom-com e.g. only one bed, that’s not what it is. I would even go so far as to say the romance isn’t the focus of the book. It’s more about the individual journeys of two characters who just happen to fall for one another while on their way to other things. This isn’t a criticism, but something to keep in mind if you’re hoping for an intense romance read.

Three’s a Crowd

Speaking of the romance, unfortunately, it didn’t really work for me. I have two main reasons for this. First, it didn’t feel as though Cleo and Mack spent enough quality time together to really justify the depth of their feelings. Second, I had trouble reconciling their relationship with Mack’s marriage situation. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Mack being separated from his wife and this being his first romantic interaction since. However, it’s tough to root for a couple when the male lead is not over his wife and the marriage itself is still ending. One thing I did quite like was the ‘reveal three things’ exchanges between Cleo and Mack throughout the novel. I thought it was super endearing and worked well in showing us the two getting to know one another.

Lacklustre First Impressions

When it comes to the characters themselves, the first few chapters were rocky. Cleo is rude to Mack before there’s any real reason to be and I found it bizarre that Mack somehow thought his distant relative saying he could crash at the cottage trumped Cleo’s booked and paid for vacation. Still, they grew on me a little with time, despite Cleo’s occasionally childish antics. Something I wish had been toned down a little, though, was the immense focus on Mack as a father which dominated a lot of the story and his characterisation. I completely understood why being a good parent was so important to him but it felt repetitive and overwhelming at times.

Take me to Salvation Island!

My favourite part of ONotI was the setting. Salvation was such a lovely, peaceful (despite the weather) and isolated place, and it was so easy for me to imagine Otter Lodge in all its cosy, cottagecore comfort. By halfway, I was ready to pack my bags and head to Ireland in search of a quiet spot where I, too, could scream like a maniac knowing no one would hear me and only get decent reception on a random rock at the top of a seaside hill. I also liked the addition of the small handful of Salvation locals with their knitting circle, packed to bursting pub on trivia night and welcoming nature. Although, I wish that these characters had been better developed as they did feel weak outside of group settings.

Self-Partnering?

On Cleo’s self-marriage journey, I’m torn. The marriage itself felt silly but I was very supportive of the ideas of self-love and self-partnering behind it and appreciated the sense of freedom and empowerment it instilled in Cleo. However, I can’t help feeling like this was an odd storyline to include alongside Cleo’s romance with Mack. This is mainly because, for me, it wasn’t able to properly find momentum until Mack departed the island, giving Cleo the time and solitude to think about her life and make some big changes. Then there’s the fact that the book literally includes a scene in which Cleo lists three things she fell in love with during her trip and, even with all the talk of self-love, she still ranks herself below Mack. It’s just a bit of a vibe clash.


Despite this not being my cup of tea, I can still see myself reading more of Josie Silver’s books in the future. The things that didn’t work for me here were subjective so I definitely recommend giving One Night on the Island a read if you’ve liked Silver’s previous books or if it catches your eye.

2 Stars

Thank you to Penguin & Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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