I saw Book Lovers (2022) by Emily Henry in a number of places, including NPR’s Best Books List. It looked like a clever and fun romance novel, and all of the good reviews were encouraging. It was also a nice change of pace and the perfect book to read after the disturbing and depressing School for Good Mothers that I’d just finished.
Nora Stephens is a literary agent in New York City. She loves her job, she loves the city, and she loves her younger sister, Libby. Libby also lives in New York City with her husband and two kids (with another baby on the way). It’s Libby who begs her older sister to go with her to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August as a sisterly bonding getaway before the new baby arrives. Nora hates leaving New York City, but she feels there’s been a distance between her and Libby lately. Nora wants to know what’s going on with Libby, and is desperate to get back to their normal, sisterly relationship.
Book Lovers plays around with romance novel tropes and cliches. Nora is very aware that she is the uptight, city woman who ends up alone, dumped when the hero finds his heroine at some small town inn, or farm, or craft store. It’s now happened with her last four (?!) boyfriends. So, when Libby declares they have a checklist, including: dating a local, saving a local business, makeovers, camping, and riding a horse, she only very reluctantly agrees.
Yet instead of meeting the small town hunk–as these stories often go, Nora keeps bumping into her old rival, Charlie Lastra, who is visiting his hometown and helping out his parents. At first horrified, the two really enjoy their witty banter and similar yearn to get back to the city.
In the end, Nora and Libby have to navigate aspects of their relationship, including how the death of their mother affected them. Charlie has to help his parents and figure out what he wants for himself. And Nora and Charlie go from barely tolerated co-workers, to friends, to something more.
On the whole, I found this book fun and interesting. Nora and Charlie had some great dialogue that kept the book amusing. Nora’s relationships with her mother, her sister, New York City, and her job gave her some meaningful depth. And there was also a little bit of mystery as I tried to figure out what was going on with Libby. I also appreciated that Nora was not interested in having children, and was not going to change her mind. It’s refreshing to see a happily ever after that’s even slightly different from the married with kids epilogue I see so often.
You can find all my reviews on my blog.