I think my pattern on crying over an Emily Henry book grew exponentially with every subsequent read. I broke down maybe once in PWMoV, and a bit longer on BR in a few places. But man, Book Lovers broke me, stitched me back up, and made me want to reread the parts that hurt so much–in a good, heart-healing hurt sort of way. One thing’s for sure, whatever full review I’m going to have for this has no shortage of annotations. My poor paperback didn’t stand a chance.
Absolutely loved this to pieces.
by Emily Henry
Berkley, May 2022
Adult contemporary romance
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies
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.
I want to say this book came out for me to read at the right time, and I want to say that it was serendipity that I related to much of the situations that took place in Book Lovers. But let’s be honest here; I probably would have loved it just as much as I did even if I didn’t have a very pregnant sister who I enjoy discussing books and pop culture with.
I’d read Beach Read and loved reading about people in the publishing business (I mean, I practically adored January and Gus and they were authors), but Book Lovers wasn’t just about that. It was about a woman struggling to balance work and life and ambition and lifestyle with romance. It was a story about sisters bonding through the guise of a small town getaway. It was a story about two city people who find themselves at odds with those they love despite their wishes to make everyone happy. It was a story about these two city people who, despite feeling like outsiders, find themselves whole in each other, compromises be damned.
And honestly, all of these pieces within the book sent me careening into a pond of tears, and while I’d cried quite a bit in a few scenes with Gus and January in Beach Read, Book Lovers had me in pieces even when it wasn’t a Charlie and Nora scene.
What I’ve loved about how Charlie and Nora’s story played out is the fact that it’s such a realistic progression of their romance. There are clichés, definitely, and the book wouldn’t be a charming romance without them, but even the characters find this idea amusing enough. However, cliched or not, I lived for ALL THE BANTER between Charlie and Nora, ever since the very beginning of their conversations with each other.
I was trying to figure out if I could catch a flight, Charlie replies.
Did you make it? I ask.
No, he says. Got distracted by two gin martinis and a platinum blond shark who wanted me dead.
Not dead, I say. Lightly mauled, but I would’ve stayed away from your face.
Didn’t realize you were a fan, he writes.
I also lived for the relationship between Nora and her sister, Libby. It will be no surprise who my Limelight Lady is going to be, because one of the characters with the biggest heart happens to be Nora’s sister. The two of them and their relationship are secondary to the romance with Nora and Charlie, yet I can’t help but love every scene Libby is in either. It’s almost uncanny how the whole thing reminded me of my own relationship with my sister, as well as the fact that while we both still hold a love for good stories, we live our different lives. Like Libby, she too is pregnant and has priorities tying her to her husband and family of three dogs. Like Nora, I find it more liberating to have my me-place, my me-time, no compromises allowed.
“And what, just because I don’t want kids, I would supposedly punish a pregnant woman for making a different decision than me? My favorite person’s a pregnant woman! And I’m obsessed with my nieces. Not every decision a woman makes is some grand indictment on other women’s lives.”
I practically live and breathe Nora, minus the whole literary agent thing. I love that Emily Henry wrote her as this woman who is unapologetic about wanting what she wants. I love that she’s confident and witty, and while occasionally she falters, she finds ways to pick herself back up. I love that she loves her Peloton, that she loves having a degree of control in her own life, because honestly, what woman doesn’t?
Also, THE QUOTES IN THIS BOOK. I would have said I don’t know why I cried so much reading some of the stuff in Book Lovers, but I’m fairly certain it’s because I’m a sap. And I relate. And I feel personally attacked by every few pages. In a good way. A heartrending, wholesome way. I think.
Maybe love shouldn’t be built on a foundation of compromises, but maybe it can’t exist without them either.
Not the kind that forces two people into shapes they don’t fit in, but the kind that loosens their grips, always leaves room to grow. Compromises that say, there will be a you-shaped space in my heart, and if your shape changes, I will adapt.
I rest my case. Anyway, to finish this off, like I did with Beach Read, a list!
NOTE: THIS IS DEFINITELY A BIT SPOILERY BUT I CANNOT HELP IT.
Things that made me want to hug Book Lovers:
- The book and pop culture references. While pop culture references could certainly age the book, I thought the use of it here was kind of timeless. A lot of the references mentioned were also things I was familiar with, as a book lover would be, and honestly, this book was made for book lovers to enjoy.
- The emails and text messages. Like Beach Read, one of the more charming aspects of Nora and Charlie’s blossoming relationship was their conversation through both emails and text messages. The banter doesn’t let up once they get past this and actually start conversing face to face, but I am a sucker for written flirting, too.
- Bigfoot erotica. Okay, okay, LISTEN. Not actually reading them, but just the fact that Charlie and Nora spend a great deal discussing one story they’d read on Bigfoot erotica is just gold. In every level.
- THE BANTER. I don’t think I can say this enough times. I must have marked a majority of just Charlie and Nora sniping at each other.
- Smirting and smouting. Apparently both are now combined forms of a smirk and a pout. Or smirking through a pout.
- The billiards scene. You can’t get any more cliché than teaching a girl how to play pool. But for SOME REASON this hit me hard. Mostly because I then remember one of my favorite White Collar scenes and, well, YA KNOW. This is how the scene played out for me, and Neal Caffrey is definitely Charlie Lastra.
- The “tall but not that tall” conversation. Because “There’s just tall women and the men too insecure to date them.” CHARLIE YOU HAD ME AT MANY OTHER QUOTES BUT THIS ONE IS SUPREME.
- The POWERPOINT. I would like a copy of this too!
- “Be my shark, Stephens.” Oh god I’m crying again.
- “I know, I can read you like a book.” OH GOD.
- The fact that Charlie and Nora can spend just about HOURS squeeing about the same book. They literally, unequivocally SQUEED over a book they were both working on. They’re such book nerds, and I LOVE THEM FOR IT.
- The cottage scene. And the library scene. And the pond scene. And the bookstore scene. THREE TIMES. IYKYK.
The list could probably go on here, because I’ve marked up my book so much I could probably keep talking about this forever. Okay, not forever-ever, but for a long time and thensome.
5 out of 5 cookies! This took me body and soul, and when Emily Henry comes out with her new book, you can BET I’ll be there to cry once more.