Book Lovers, by Emily Henry

Emily Henry seems to be one of the 2020s’ most divisive authors. People either seem to love her or hate her, which was why I was curious to pick up one of her books. The first one I found was Book Lovers, and since I also spotted it in my sister’s Audible library, the potential was there for an enjoyable read. Not that I was expecting a masterpiece, but you know, let’s give another romance book a try, shall we?

Nora Stephens is a cutthroat New York City literary agent whose only other love is her little sister Libby. Since they lost their mother, they’ve been trying to get on without her, with Nora furthering her career and Libby starting her own family. But one day, Libby gets the wild idea to take Nora with her to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, the setting for one of Nora’s client’s bestsellers. There, they will save a dying business, meet cute men, and all other romantic comedy items. Nora just doesn’t expect to run into and catch feelings for Charlie Lastra, her longtime work rival.

I’ll be honest right up front: I almost DNF’d (did not finish) this book. I started it back in April 2022 and did not pick it up again until the start of the new year. The book started out relatively strong. We got off on decent ground with Nora and Libby and their wild escapade, as well as the enemies-to-lovers train with Nora and Charlie.

One big problem that made me lose interest for a long time. 

The romantic tension between Charlie and Nora broke too soon. It was a blatant example of why I’m not very fond of enemies to lovers. They go from practically spitting on each other’s names to hot sex on the cottage patio, or wherever it was their tension broke (I can’t remember, okay, it was eight months ago), in a couple of chapters. And it wasn’t even the halfway point. I was pretty sure most romance novels wait at least until then to let their characters ravage each other.

I just wasn’t feeling their chemistry, either. No matter how they opened up to each other, they just felt like walking cutouts, and their relationship was the least interesting part of the book. 

It might also have been because Nora has a strange interaction with Charlie where she’s so surprised to see him that she randomly shouts, “LION!” What are you, Nora, seven?

And don’t get me started on Nora’s interactions with Shepherd, who so happens to be Charlie’s cousin. Nora goes out with Shepherd, and she gets too flirty with him too quickly, even nudging his knee with hers, slow-dancing with him, and even almost kissing him, even though Charlie’s the one we’ve been building chemistry (or lack thereof) with. I actually wrote in my notes that Nora was a two-timing whore, and this sudden sexual tension with Shepherd made no sense.

Nora and Libby’s relationship was far more engaging, and the stakes felt higher between them. They are both still mourning their mother’s loss and trying to navigate without her, and Nora’s anxiety about looking out for her sister rang true.

The setting was serviceable as well. Sunshine Falls is nothing too special, though you do have to appreciate the raunchy names for their establishments (G Spa, Mug + Shot, Poppa Squat, Shut up and Dye, and so on).

The writing style also sometimes took me out of the story. Once, when Nora is sweet-talking with Charlie, she says “a very small star lodges itself in my diaphragm.” I get the point of the sentence, but I puzzled over it long enough to decide it was weird. And since when does a sexy description of a heartbeat include the word “pulpy”?

There’s a scene where Nora and Libby, in the midst of their awful sisterly communication, have a great time together (the most fun Nora has had in years, apparently. Working hard or hardly working, eh, Nora?). And then, in the next scene, there’s suddenly more unspoken tension between them. It felt like we skipped a key scene that triggered their tension right out of nowhere.

I’ve heard there are better Emily Henry books, so maybe I’ll give those a shot soon. But the strange writing choices and the lack of romantic chemistry is probably going to bring my copy over to Half Price Books.

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