B O O K R E V I E W : Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Happy publication day to Book Lovers by Emily Henry, and thank you so much to @berkleypub and @berkleyromance for a gifted copy of one of my most anticipated books of the year! #berkleypartner #berkleyig

Book agent Nora Stephens always gets the best deals for her authors. She’s organized, tough, and a workaholic. She’s also careful not to fall in love; she’s not that kind of heroine. After all, three of her ex-boyfriends have gone on work trips to small towns only to find their true loves in the wholesome locales. Her one weakness is her little sister, Libby, whom she will always protect and to whom she will never say no.

So when Libby, five months pregnant, asks Nora to visit Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August for a sister’s getaway, Nora packs her bags. Libby has a list—laminated no less!—of things they (Nora) need to do during their vacation, including ride a horse, date a local, and save a small business. Nora can’t resist a good list.

Instead of finding a charming hamlet, though, Sunshine Falls leaves a little to be desired, such as reliable wi-fi and decent restaurants. And rather than running into a handsome denizen, Nora keeps seeing Charlie Lastra, an editor she knows from the city. Two years ago, when first meeting, Charlie chastised her for being six minutes late to a meeting. As far as Nora can tell, time has not made him less serious or brusque. They both know what they want, and it doesn’t include a future with the other, but that might not be the final chapter of their story.

“This book, this job, this trip, this never-ending, days-spanning conversation. I want to make it all last, and I need to know how it ends. I want to finish it, and I need it to go on forever.”

I’ve been eagerly awaiting Book Lovers since I first heard Henry mention it at a virtual event last summer. It’s as good as Beach Read, and transcends the romance genre. Reading this, I both laughed and cried.

📖 Full of bibliophiles and set in the publishing industry, the book celebrates writing and reading.
📖 Multiple characters have to negotiate how to manage balancing their own needs and desires against those of loved ones. It questions when sacrifices are necessary and when they verge into martyrdom.
📖 The book talks a lot about tropes in books, but another theme is family relationships (particularly among siblings) and how people are assigned roles within families.
📖Even though it’s set in South Carolina, it gives a lot of love to NYC!
📖 Charlie might be more swoonworthy than Gus!
📖 No one writes snarky banter (my favorite) better than Henry!

B O O K R E V I E W : Business Not As Usual

Thank you to Berkley Romance and NetGalley for the eARC of Business Not As Usual by Sharon C. Cooper, publishing Tuesday, Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

Dreamy Daniels, assistant to a brilliant software engineer who unfortunately is also a micromanager treating his his employees poorly, can’t wait to start her own non-profit helping female entrepreneurs. She just needs to finish her degree (only one more semester)—and win the lottery!

Dreamy and her grandfather have been playing the same numbers for years, and she’s sure their lucky day is on the horizon. Meanwhile, her charm, vibrant personality, and eclectic style win over those she meets, including Karter Redford, a potential investor in her boss’s company. Although her boss flubbed the meeting, Dreamy salvaged the opportunity.

Karter, son of a famous actor and Hollywood socialite, and successful businessperson himself, knows better than to mix business and pleasure, but he can’t stop thinking of Dreamy. And although Dreamy swore off men after her last boyfriend, she can’t deny the attraction between them. Yet, the two come from radically different worlds.

A light-hearted romance, Business Not As Usual has great representation, a fabulous female lead, and a wonderful cast of secondary characters, including Dreamy’s cousin and grandfather and Karter’s sister, driver, and assistant.

It was difficult to see the impact of class differences on Dreamy’s self-esteem, though Cooper contextualizes it with information from Dreamy’s past. I also had a hard time with Dreamy’s belief in and reliance on the lottery and almost wish that hadn’t been part of the story.

This would be a good option for those looking for a quick, feel-good age-gap romance.

B O O K R E V I E W : I’m So (Not) Over You by Kosoko Jackson

I’m So (Not) Over You 
by Kosoko Jackson
Publication Date: February 22, 2022

Thank you to Berkley Romance for a gifted copy of the book!

Aspiring journalist Kian Andrews never understood why his boyfriend, Hudson River, broke up with him just as they were graduating from Northeastern. When Hudson unexpectedly texts Kian, Kian can’t resist meeting him, hoping to find resolution. Instead, Hudson admits he never told his parents they split and begs him to attend a family dinner as his boyfriend.

Kian agrees but finds himself invited to Georgia’s biggest wedding of the year. If Kian goes as Hudson’s plus-one, Hudson promises to introduce him to one of the most prominent magazine editors in the business.

Soon, the fake relationship feels very real, but the class issues that drove them apart are only heightened as the two men navigate the expectations of Hudson’s wealthy family, owners of the Rivers & Valley brewing company.

I love the representation in the book and how it addresses race, class, and sexuality. Kian’s BFF, the newly minted lawyer, no-nonsense Divya is a fun character who delights in giving Kian reality checks. I wish that there had been more backstory about their relationship and circumstances surrounding their breakup. Without this information, it was difficult to understand why a second chance was worthwhile. Also, much of the narration moved via Kian’s inner dialogue, and I think I would have preferred less contemplation and more action. I’m excited that Kosoko Jackson transitioned from writing YA to adult novels and look forward to seeing his future endeavors!

B O O K R E V I E W : If You Ask Me by Libby Hubscher

If You Ask Me
by Libby Hubscher
Publication Date: March 8, 2022

Thank you to Berkley Publishing for a gifted copy of the book!

Violet Covington, aka North Carolina’s most popular advice columnist “Dear Sweetie,” revels in her idyllic life, living with her husband, Sam, in their dream home in a gorgeous neighborhood. However, when she comes home early one afternoon and finds Sam in bed with another woman, she realizes her life was perfect only on the surface.

Full of hurt and anger, Violet’s done with politeness. She strikes a new, take-no-prisoners tone in her column, and her posts quickly go viral. At the same time, her behavior off the job becomes reckless. One night, she drags mosts of Sam’s belongings into the cul-de-sac, dousing them with his expensive scotch before igniting them.

When the fire department arrives to extinguish the blaze, Violet meets Dez, a handsome and compassionate firefighter. While others in Violet’s life try to reign in her newly discovered voice, Dez accepts Violet for who she is. As much as she loves being with him, though, she’s not sure the timing is right or that she can give him everything he wants and deserves.

If You Ask Me has both extremely hilarious moments and poignant moments, some of them in the letters to Dear Sweetie and her replies. As much as this is a romance, it’s also a story of Violet letting loose and finding her authentic voice after realizing she’s been following unspoken rules of behavior and ignoring her own desires. At the same time, she develops more compassion for her true friends. There are also several serious themes, including infertility and racism and privilege in the workplace.

I found the book a satisfying and even inspiring read, though I did wish for more of Dez’s backstory and more communication and less assumption-making on Violet’s part.

This is a great book for readers who like stories of self-discovery and resilience.

TW: infidelity, infertility, miscarriage, drunk driving

B O O K R E V I E W : Count Your Lucky Stars

Count Your Lucky Stars
Alexandria Bellefleur
Avon Books
Publication Date: February 1, 2022

All Margot Cooper’s friends are in relationships—Brendon and Annie, in fact, are weeks away from getting married. Of course, she’s thrilled for them, but she can’t help feeling left out when they pair off or go to couples yoga.

When the venue for Brendon and Annie’s wedding becomes unavailable at the last minute, they turn to Emerald City Events. Margot is shocked to learn that the event planner is Olivia Grant, her teenage best friend and first love. A week of bliss ended in heartbreak, and they haven’t seen each other in the ten years since. Despite the time and circumstances of their parting, an undeniable electric current passes between them.

Olivia just moved to Seattle after divorcing Brad, her high school boyfriend. When she has to vacate her apartment on short notice, Margot offers her a place to stay. Not only are they living together, they are spending a great deal of time together preparing for the upcoming wedding. Margot has sworn off serious relationships, and one with Olivia seems especially unwise given how much she was hurt the first time she let Olivia in. She can’t help her feelings, though—but will Olivia reciprocate or cast her aside again?

Count Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur, the final book in the Written in the Stars trilogy, had me laughing out loud (Cat the cat stole some notable scenes) and in tears as Margot and Olivia were thwarted by poor communication, underlying fears, and external obstacles, like the man-child Brad or well-meaning Brendon who tries to set Olivia up. The perspective shifts between Margot and Olivia, who are both sympathetic characters but trying to protect themselves. Like the most satisfying love stories, Margot and Olivia grow as individuals as their relationship develops. Characters from the previous books make cameos, and Bellefleur strikes the delicate balance of moving their stories forward while not diluting the primary narrative.

The very steamy, sapphic Count Your Lucky Stars was one of my favorite romance reads in February! Romance lovers will want to add this to their libraries.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Avon Books for including me on the book tour and providing a gifted copy of the book!