You know in a lot of romantic comedies, the hero already has a girlfriend, but she’s stern, and demanding and seems to have absolutely no feelings that don’t revolve around her career and probably living in the big city? The woman who eventually gets left, so the hero can get with the charming, free-spirited, understanding and much more laid-back heroine of the rom-com?
Nora Stephens is that woman. She loves her life in New York City, she loves her Peloton bike, she loves her designer shoes and she really doesn’t give a fig for the outdoors. However, the fourth (!) time one of her boyfriends goes out of town for a few weeks to small-town America, only to call her to let her know that they won’t be back, because they’ve realised their careers in the big city are hollow and they need to do something completely different with their lives, she is understandably quite upset. That the break-up phone call happens right before she’s about to have a very important business meeting, causing Nora to be late (she’s never late) is possibly even worse.
The meeting does not go well. Charlie Lastra, known in the publishing industry as the Storm Cloud, seems entirely uninterested in editing and publishing the book Nora is trying to pitch to him. Obviously, Nora feels rather triumphant two years later, when the book is a massive bestseller with a film adaptation in the works. However, she’s also worried about her pregnant little sister, who seems utterly exhausted and has decided that she needs a break from her husband and two daughters, so she (Libby) and Nora will go away for a month to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, which just so happens to be the setting of Nora’s author’s very successful novel.
Nora’s life is pretty much her work, where she is the most cutthroat literary agent in Manhattan, who will do anything for her authors, especially make sure they get excellent publishing deals, and Libby, the reason she works so hard in the first place. Raised by a single mother who came to New York to chase her dreams and frequently kept having them crushed while trying to make ends meet to support her girls, Nora and Libby were both devastated when she died. For a long time, they’ve only had each other, and Nora has worked hard her entire adult life to make sure neither Libby nor she ever faced the sort of difficult financial burdens their mother did. She can’t really say no to Libby, even though she’s unsure about a whole month away from NYC and the very long checklist of items her sister seems to want them to get through during that month (one of which includes saving a failing business).
Nora is worried Libby is going to be disappointed with Sunshine Falls, which is a lot more run-down and deserted than the best-selling novel made it seem. Libby, however, seems perfectly happy to be there, it’s Nora who’s feeling like a fish out of water. Imagine her surprise when on one of her very first days in Sunshine Falls, she runs (literally) into Charlie Lastra, her grumpy publishing nemesis, and very quickly, they not only seem to have struck up a friendship but are pretty much constantly flirting via e-mail or text. Turns out one of the reasons Charlie passed on the novel is that he’s from Sunshine Falls, and didn’t really like the way his childhood home was romanticised in the pages of the book. Now he’s back home, helping his parents (his father had a stroke and needs a lot of physical rehabilitation), running the family bookstore while his dad recovers, and working long-distance as an editor.
While Nora and Charlie’s first meeting may not have been the best, it’s very quickly clear that they are two peas in a pod, and care deeply about most of the same things. They also have absolutely sizzling chemistry, but as they end up working together to edit the new manuscript for Nora’s top author, they are both determined to keep everything professional. Not that Charlie seems all too pleased about Libby’s plan that Nora just needs to become the heroine of her own small-town romance, and to do so, Libby wants her to go on dates with at least two of the locals. Of course, the first one seems deeply intimidated by how tall Nora is and how big her shoes are, while the other one turns out to be Charlie’s cousin, and while he’s got the good looks, charm, intelligence, and humour of a perfect small town leading man – Nora just keeps thinking about Charlie’s scowl and prominent eyebrows.
Full review on my blog.