Book Lovers is as charming and well-written as I expect any Emily Henry book to be, yet it didn’t make me smile the way Beach Read or People We Meet on Vacation did. A little too winking and knowing in its metafictional take on small-town romance tropes, it attempts to pay tribute to the genre and tweak it all at once. That means it doesn’t flow quite as easily as either of the author’s previous books, or come off as well. But it’s still a B-level read, with some fun characters and good ideas.
Nora Stephens is a literary agent with a top-notch New York firm. She doesn’t expect that her workaholic ways are going to be interrupted by her sister, Libby, for whom she would do anything. On Libby’s request that they take a sister’s holiday Nora comes to Sunshine Falls (yes, really), North Carolina. They’ll spend all of August there, and surely Nora’s prince charming will come along.
He does, but not in the package she expects. Charlie Lastra is a grumpy, introverted editor who’s no one’s idea of a stereotypical hero. Especially Nora’s, because they know each other from their jobs and they’ve never been charmed by each other. But will the pages to come bring them misery or joy?
Book Lovers is as meta as all get-out, but its tone alternates between self-knowing trope acknowledgement and groping to tug on its audience’s heartstrings. Does it want me to gently snicker at those Hallmark tropes or take the reference to them as a loving tribute? I don’t think the book itself really knows, either.
Nora has a big problem, and it’s that she can’t unclench. She’s almost hysterically smothering in regard to Libby, so when her sister announces her intent to move there is much ballyhoo. Charlie is, however a delightful hero, and the romance here works beautifully. And yet I had some big issues with the lack of communication between Nora and Charlie. Was there any reason for them to quit talking, except that Henry was trying to draw their eventual HEA out?
Henry parodies the tropes of small-town romance without being cruel. The last ten pages of Book Lovers proves to be truly beautiful; I just wish the middle stretch had been the same.
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Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier