PJ Whiteley has written a Leeds-based rom-com and to celebrate, he’s hosting a short dramatisation, readings and talks, along with some music to entertain his guests on 13 November.
S.J. Bradley, award-winning novelist and fiction editor of Strix magazine, had this to say about Philip’s latest book:
“PJ Whiteley’s A Love of Two Halves is an uplifting Northern novel that will warm your heart and restore your faith in humanity.”
(With the state of our current affairs, we could do with some restoring of our faith in humanity.)
In stark demographic contrast, George Mowatt, an entrepreneur, is one of the wealthiest people in Britain, whilst Karen Barnes, a single mum living in a terraced house in south Leeds, is not. When George decides that his third home should be close to the stadium of his beloved football team, they become neighbours, at least on match day.
Both George and Karen have been unlucky in love, and the chemistry between them is instant. Yet their lives are a world apart, and their hearts keep missing each other’s beat. Just as they begin to chart a route to happiness, someone from Karen’s past reappears, and she is forced to reveal a secret she has kept from them both.
There is humour, missed opportunity, a love almost in touching distance despite the odds…..and all from an author who tells us he is ‘a straight bloke with rather girly tastes in books and movies’.
He also says: “I find car chases boring and I’m fascinated by relationships. I love a good rom-com. The fact that you’re rooting for the couple and you want them to work it out doesn’t bother me, provided the dialogue is sharp and funny and the characters come to life. You may guess what is going to happen, but not how. That is what I have been striving for in A Love of Two Halves.
It occurred to me that, in all the novels I’ve read by David Lodge, Nick Hornby or Helen Fielding, or the movies I’ve seen by Richard Curtis, not one was set in Leeds, with a Big Scene taking place on Elland Road. Beeston was clearly overdue as the setting for a heart-rending romcom.
In some romantic novels, the principal male characters are either a hero or a cad, with zero insecurities. That’s not how blokes are in real life. I’ve sought to show how relationships are important to men, and how vulnerable many are below the surface.”
The story also reflects on how gender roles have changed and also involves work-related crises, confronting fears and the gaining of confidence, but it is essentially one of two people who are in love and dare to chase their dreams.
About the author
PJ Whiteley, who writes non-fiction as Philip Whiteley, is an experienced author and journalist. Close of Play (Urbane Publications 2015), his first novel, was shortlisted for the People’s Book Prize Summer Award 2015. His second novel Marching on Together (Urbane Publications 2017) received the accolade of a cover quote by Captain Corelli author Louis de Bernières, who wrote: ‘I very much enjoyed Marching on Together and was happily carried along by the wonderfully realised characters.’
Philip was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire, but grew up in different parts of England. After spending much of his adult life in southern regions – Kent, Sussex, London, Paraguay – in 2018 he headed back home, and now lives in Wakefield with an office in Leeds.
Feature photograph by Mark Wheelwright.