When you are a New York literary agent who is named after Nora Ephron, you must have romance all figured out, right? Unfortunately, that is not the case for Nora Stephens. We meet Nora rushing to a business lunch with Charlie Lastra, executive editor at Wharton House Books. She’s sprinting to the meeting while on the phone with her boyfriend Grant—who is breaking up with her. Grant went to Texas on business for a few weeks and turned his life into a predictable small-town romance. He was transformed by visiting a small town and falling in love, albeit with another woman. Grant informs Nora that he will not be returning to New York. Nora takes the news well because she’s seen this scenario play out in romances again and again. Her reaction is to laugh rather than cry. (Actually, Nora doesn’t cry. Ever, really.) The trope that the serious city dweller visits a small town and is rejuvenated by living a simpler but more meaningful life, inevitably falling in love, ultimately relocating to Small Town, USA, and shedding their former life and self is one that fans of romance (and Hallmark movies) have seen again and again.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry gives readers a refreshingly different kind of heroine with Nora, who relishes in her career, wearing heels and living in New York City. Nora is not the career-oriented woman whose success comes at the detriment of her family. Actually, her career choices have often centered around taking care of her little sister, Libby, after their mother passed away. Libby is now a married woman with two children and another one the way, but to Nora, Libby will always be her younger sister who needs to be looked after. So when a very pregnant Libby begs for a sisters’ trip to Sunshine Falls, a small town in North Carolina, Nora agrees despite not really wanting to leave the city or her job even temporarily.
Two years after her disastrous lunch with Charlie Lastra, the resentment remains. Grumpy Charlie is Nora’s literary nemesis. He is the man who insulted and turned down Once in a Lifetime, one of her client’s books which turned out to be a smashing success. When Nora and Charlie land in Sunshine Falls (coincidentally, the setting for Once in a Lifetime) at the same time, irritation yields to attraction. They have some humorous text exchanges involving Bigfoot erotica, but still have some push-and-pull encounters that create tension within the plot.
In addition to Nora and Charlie’s ‘will they or won’t they’ romance, there is another plot involving Nora and Libby. Nora feels like something is off with their relationship and she is hoping that their trip to Sunshine Falls renews their bond. The reader also gets insight into Nora’s grief regarding their mother’s death and how that loss continues to impact her life.
Book Lovers is a contemporary romance that turns the small town trope on its head. This book is a reminder that some heroines prefer life in a big city, are unapologetically in love with their career, want a partner but not children and know that compromising themselves won’t lead to a happily every after.
I create or match a cocktail to pair with each book that I review. Here’s the cocktail pairing, recipe and additional serving tips for Book Lovers by Emily Henry. Make it for your book club meeting or sip it while you read! Cheers!
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