BOOK REVIEW: Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Title: Book Lovers

Author: Emily Henry

Book Length: 384 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

GenreFiction, Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Read Start Date: August 27, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 4, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming….

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

My Review: I am not usually a romance novel reader, but have gotten into it recently because I’ve heard that you should read what you are currently writing to get you in the mindset. I also am not usually a fan of romance movies or rom coms. From my limited understanding, this book covers the small town romance trope. Emily Henry writes in the “Behind the Book” section at the end of the book:

“And having seen enough of these low-angst, made-for-TV delights (Hallmark and otherwise), I found myself fascinated with one particular iteration of the small-town romance. It goes like this: an uptight, joyless, career-obsessed main character gets shipped off from the big city they call home to conduct business in Middle America. They don’t want to go! They don’t even have the right shoes for this kind of setting! But once they’re there, not only do they manage to fall in love with one of the sweet, small-town locals, but they also manage to learn the true meaning of life. (Spoiler alert: it’s not a high-power career in a major metropolis. And everyone ends up happy. Well, everyone except for the ex. The woman (or man) left behind in the city, whose entire role is usually to call the lead character and bark at them over the phone, remind them that they went to Smalltown, USA for business–to conduct a mass layoff, or to crush the local toy emporium so Big Toy can open its 667th location in the heart of the town, while maybe bulldozing a gazebo or two on the way.”

Emily Henry goes on to say about the inspiration for Book Lovers: “I found myself asking, who is this woman? Where does her story go from here?”

Enter Nora Stephenson, the woman left behind in the big city. Nora, a high earning, workaholic, book agent, has been left behind THREE times! Nora loves her job, the city (a.k.a. Manhattan), and her life there. The City is where she grew up with her mother and sister Libby — where her mother died. The City for Nora is not only a place to live, but a place where her mother’s memory can be found on every corner. She couldn’t imagine anything worse than living in one of those small-towns from the romance novels she reads, or in general moving from the City to anyplace else.

We meet Charlie Lastra (a book editor) pretty early in the book, and it is obvious that this guy will be the love interest. Nora is late to her meeting with Charlie because she was being dumped, en route, by another guy who is leaving her for a small-town local girl. At this point, Nora is so used to this being her luck with men, that it doesn’t phase her. She really could care less. When she arrives at the table, to pitch her client’s new manuscript, which takes place in Sunshine Falls, a small town in North Carolina, Charlie turns down the book. Whatever, Charlie is a nightmare anyway (everyone says so).

The joke is on Charlie Lastra, because 2 years later, the book Nora was pitching is a best seller making tons of money.

Libby (Nora’s sister) is a mother of 2, with a 3rd on the way, and guilts Nora into taking a four-week relaxation vacation to Sunshine Falls. Nora, who gives Libby whatever she wants, agrees. There is a lot of baggage in the relationship between the sisters, stemming from the death of their mother when they were young. In short, Nora had to step into the mother role and gave up a lot of her dreams. Nora puts Libby first, but Libby is unhappy that Nora works too much and doesn’t seem to have time for Libby anymore, etc.

Anyway, they go to Sunshine Falls, and who should Nora see there, but Charlie. Turns out he is FROM Sunshine Falls, which is why he didn’t want to edit the book because it was clear from the manuscript that the author had never been to Sunshine Falls. Sparks fly, etc. Charlie and Nora are like the same person, except you know, Nora is a woman and Charlie is a man. Has Nora stepped into a small-town romance of her own?

I could go on about the plot, but I think you get the idea.

From the synopsis, I was afraid that this book was going to be too much like Beach Read, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was not. I really liked the main characters Charlie and Nora. Their characters were believable, with real problems. I felt that this was a “small-town romance”, but in real terms rather than movie terms. Nora was a smart, professional woman, who had a hard time finding a man who could handle that — which unfortunately is a very real problem. Charlie, also in love with the City, is stuck in Sunshine falls taking care of the family business and his ailing father. This is also a real life problem faced by many people. Aging parents, no one else to take care of them…etc.

I think that Bookshelf Fantasies says it best in saying that “[t]he plot has much more depth than you might expect. Emily Henry excels at creating funny, quirky, unusual characters, then giving them rich backstories that humanize them and expose the pains and sorrows behind their facades. The same is true here, and it makes Nora much more likable than she initially comes across, so much so that I became very invested in her happiness and well-being.”

I also loved how Charlie and Nora were not perfect, but perfect for each other. I agree with Ali’s Books, when she says “Charlie and Nora are perfection together. When they come together it’s HOT and not because the scenes are steamy, but because you feel their connection so deeply. The way Charlie worships and adores Nora is just everything. And watching the sisters heal and reconnect was beautiful, too.”

I also appreciated that the banter between the characters did not get tiresome as in most romance books I’ve read lately. They are both playfully sarcastic, but the conversations were not stupid or annoying, and did not seem contrived just for the sake of having a conversation to show how sarcastic the characters were — meaning that the conversation had purpose, depth, a certain realistic edge to it.

While the ending was predictably a happy one, it was also very realistic, which was great. I can’t stand sappy, ridiculous endings that just ruin an otherwise good book. I’m so glad that this didn’t happen here, because I would have been pretty annoyed.

All in all another great book from Emily Henry!

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