Updated: Jun 8, 2022
Release Date: 2 May 2022
Book Boxes: Lit Love Box (May 2022)
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.
Caution: This review contains a bit of snark. There is no foul language, however.
I haven’t read any of the new-fangled romance novels with the cartoon-style covers as of yet, so when I was provided an advance copy of Emily Henry’s Book Lovers, I figured I’d give one a try and see how they are. It’s not fantasy (I prefer fantasy), it’s contemporary (I’m not a huge fan of contemporary), but a story’s a story, Emily Henry’s a pretty popular author (which begs the question why BOTM didn’t do this book of hers but has done a ton of her other ones), and I’ll go ahead and give it a go.
Unfortunately, within the first chapter, there’s a trip to Asheville, the only city anyone cares about in the mountains of North Carolina, as though the state just ends there, and a lovely side comment demonizing foresters, which I won’t stand on a soap box about because there’s really no point. Also, flannel shirts and cowboy boots are not stereotypical North Carolina clothing trends. Try a more northern state like Vermont and Texas, respectively. Also, NO ONE wears flannel in the summer. I do so wish writers wouldn’t smear places and people in their books. It’s quite ironic that in chapter 6, the MMC voices my exact frustrations by saying, “[The author] hasn’t even googled Sunshine Falls in the last 20 years, let alone visited.”
After reading the whole thing, I have come to the conclusion that I still do not like contemporary books and maybe I’m not the audience for the romances with cartoon covers. Nora’s a great main character; she’s driven, much like Sandra Bullock in The Proposal (this book is startlingly reminiscent of that movie), and she meets an editor with a similar personality as she and sparks fly between them. Though she is a great character, she’s also not a character that stands out. The whole story is basically the small-town romance turned on its head, with the small-town love being the big-city spurn who turns out to be from a small town but is really a city boy at heart.
Charlie is a stoic, curt editor who starts the story in a foul mood and the rest is history for establishing the enemies-to-lovers trope that builds upon the small-town romance trope. The banter between Charlie and Nora is, admittedly, hilarious at times, but the comic relief only lasts for about 15% of the book and the rest of the plot falls into the abyss of boringness. Charlie is also a great male lead, but his grumpy charm is not enough for me. And his ears aren’t pointy enough.
I just did not feel compelled by the plot enough to invest myself in the book more than half paying attention while doing menial chores and gardening. I think perhaps it could have been different if the setup for the narrative at the beginning weren’t so off-putting with hypocritical, negative stereotypes. 2 stars.
On a side note, and not surprisingly, the voice narration is excellent, as I always love listening to Julia Whelan, with the exception in this instance that mountain folk don’t sound like Southern folk. Other than that, the voice narration is 5 stars.
My thanks to libro<.> fm for the advance copy, for which I willingly give my own, honest opinion.