Henry, Emily. Book Lovers. Berkley, 2022. 384 pp. ISBN 978-0593440872. $27.00
In this novel brilliantly plotted like a Hallmark holiday movie (without the Christmas), protagonist Nora, a shark-like NYC literary agent, has lost not one but four boyfriends to the trope of “went out of town on business, met a local girl, saved her family’s business instead of destroyed it, had a complete change of morals and heart and breaks up with her.” The most recent dumping coincides with a late lunch meeting with notoriously grumpy editor Charlie, to invite him to edit author Dusty’s latest manuscript. He passes. Their verbal sparring is foreplay, but neither knows it yet.
Fast forward two years, and Libby, Nora’s sister, pregnant with her third child, wants a babymoon with her big sister and drags Nora off the not-so-charming Sunshine Farms for a vacation, complete with an irresistible checklist that includes hiking, horse-petting, makeovers, baking and camping–elements of a grownup, multiple- week- long slumber party. Special items for Nora include dates with not one, but two, hot local men.
One of whom turns out to be a certain book editor, born and raised in Sunshine Falls, running his mom’s bookstore while his dad recovers from a second stroke… Nora can’t be completely “off” on her vacation, because her best-selling and sensitive author is working on a new novel, featuring a rather bloodthirsty and seemingly irredeemable Cruella DeVil of a film agent whose characterization is hitting a little too close to home for Nora’s taste. When Dusty’s agent goes into labor prematurely, Charlie takes over the book, forcing he and Nora to work together. Meanwhile, Libby is hatching a plot to save the ailing bookshop.
This is a gem of a book from the pacing, the plot, the characters. The voice is pitch perfect. The baggage Nora and Libby need to work through is real and not over the top: their single actress/waitress mom who adored New York and made being broke fun; their dad who abandoned them; Libby’s focus on family and Nora’s on career; their sweet and loving but high stakes sibling relationship which Nora perceives as forcing her into a rescuer role. The subplot of a mini-mystery about what’s going on between Libby and her husband Brendan is a nice little side story.
The banter between Nora and Charlie and Nora and her sister is fun, snarky and just wonderfully written. The attraction between Nora and Charlie is real, palpable and a bit gut wrenching. Motifs are just so beautifully carried through, from Nora and Charlie’s crashing into one another to the analogy of their relationship being like a great book that leaves you with a lingering heartache. NYC and Sunshine Falls are both lovingly rendered in their exquisite gory, run-down, lush and gorgeous details.
I have a stack of ARCS to read, but right now, I’m going to finish the paperback copy of People We Meet on Vacation, because I loved Beach Read, loved Book Lovers, and can’t get enough of Emily Henry right now.
I received an advance reader’s review copy of #BookLovers from #NetGalley.