Friday, June 24, 2022

An Affair at Stonecliffe

An Affair at Stonecliffe- Candace Camp

HQN

Release Date: May 24, 2022

Rating: 📚📚📚📚📚

Synopsis: Noelle Rutherford would do anything for her young son, Gil. A fiercely independent woman recently widowed, Noelle is determined to raise Gil alone. After all, her late husband Adam Rutherford married her for love, which infuriated his aristocratic family. Gil is Noelle’s whole world, and she will not have him wrested from her by haughty nobles.

But she may not have a choice unless she’s prepared to run.
 
One awful night, Noelle is confronted by Carlisle Thorne, a handsome yet severe, irascible man sent by the Rutherfords. Noelle is horrified when Carlisle offers her money in exchange for taking Gil to be raised at the Rutherford estate, Stonecliffe. Knowing that Carlisle will use any means necessary to take her son from her, Noelle flees, Gil at her side.
 
Thus begins an epic rivalry that spans five years—a battle of wits between two unforgettable characters bound together by fate and fortune. However, when danger threatens, these enemies must come together to protect what matters most… even if it means losing their hearts.
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This book in a new series by Candace Camp was so wonderful to read, I ended up not being able to put it down and read the whole thing in one day! You instantly connect to the emotions of Noelle, a young widow trying to raise her infant son, cope with her grief at her husband's death, her fear of being destitute, and then in comes Carlisle Thorne, a friend of her husband's aristocratic family, wanting to buy her baby and take it away from her to her husband's family. She runs and is on the run for the next five years, avoiding attempts of kidnappers to take her son. When Noelle and Carlisle meet again her fear and his exasperation come across as if you are feeling them yourself, and the reader starts to wonder (before the main characters) if there is something else going on- because if Carlisle is not behind the kidnapping attempts, who is? 

There are some excellent plot twists right up to the end to keep you guessing. Every secondary character is well done, and essential, and you instantly want to know more about them. I can't wait for characters like Nathan, Annabeth, and Sloane to have their own books to discover their secrets! Noelle and Carlisle shift from enemies to lovers with what felt like the right amount of timing and tension, and a delicious amount of chemistry and misunderstanding. Noelle may be one of the strongest characters I've read in awhile- she takes everything life throws at her and refuses to break under any of it. 

Beautifully written, well paced, and delightful characters, this is an absolute must read for romance readers. Candace Camp fans will rejoice in the start of this new series!

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Thursday, June 16, 2022

It Girl

 

The It Girl- Ruth Ware

Simon and Schuster/Gallery

Release Date: July 12, 2022

Rating: 📚📚📚📚

Synopsis: April Clarke-Cliveden was the first person Hannah Jones met at Oxford.

Vivacious, bright, occasionally vicious, and the ultimate It girl, she quickly pulled Hannah into her dazzling orbit. Together, they developed a group of devoted and inseparable friends—Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily—during their first term. By the end of the year, April was dead.

Now, a decade later, Hannah and Will are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April, former Oxford porter John Neville, has died in prison. Relieved to have finally put the past behind her, Hannah’s world is rocked when a young journalist comes knocking and presents new evidence that Neville may have been innocent. As Hannah reconnects with old friends and delves deeper into the mystery of April’s death, she realizes that the friends she thought she knew all have something to hide…including a murder.

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In this new psychological thriller Ruth Ware introduces us to an unlikely group of friends at an Oxford college, all orbiting around "It Girl" April- rich, beautiful, intelligent, and talented who seemingly has it all. Yet by the end of their second term April is dead, murdered in her rooms. A decade later it comes out that maybe the man sentenced for the murder didn't actually do it- which naturally makes you wonder, if not him, who did kill April?

This is the second Ruth Ware book I've read (One by One was the other) and I definitely liked this one more than I expected to. The book is split into alternating "Before" and "After" chapters (as Hannah's life is divided into 'before April's murder' and 'after April's murder'), introducing us to narrator Hannah, "It Girl" April, and their friends Will, Ryan, Hugh, and Emily, as well as building them up over the course of their college experiences. In the "After" sections it is ten years later, Hannah and Will have moved to Edinburg and are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April dies in prison. They are pushed back into the trauma of the murder and the media circus surrounding the murder and the trial and you get a really good sense of how traumatizing both events were for Hannah, Will, and the others- and how they reacted to it in very different ways. But you also see, before she does I think, that while Hannah might see herself as weak, she is anything but- when the idea comes up that Neville might have been innocent Hannah does face it and does start to confront the memories surrounding that time period, asking herself what she might have gotten wrong and who might have killed April if not Neville. She's a far better friend, in life or death, then April probably deserves, because she doesn't let it go. It effects her marriage and her health, but she feels like she owes it to April and to Neville, a man who sexually harassed her at college, to find out the truth. Is she naive, innocent, and in over her head? Yes. Is that annoying? Yes, often. But it somehow makes her the character you've read a hundred times before and at the same time someone you can pull for the whole way because you see something new through her eyes. You want her to understand that April is a vicious, nasty piece of work while at the same time hoping that Hannah was somehow making April a better person. You want Hannah's innocence to remain intact while knowing it won't, which makes you worry about what will be left when the dust settles- because you care about her and her marriage and her friends through the spell that Ware casts page by page.

There are well-written descriptions of Oxford and what the college and college life are like; wrenching psychological cases of survivor's guilt and looks into our morbid cultural fascination with "it" murders and what they do to the people left behind in the cases; tension weaves through the pages even before anything happens without you able to quite identify why; red herrings leap like spawning salmon; excellent twists and turns getting to the 'who', 'how' and 'why'; and friendships and relationships that will haunt you to the last page.

A must read summer psychological thriller for the mystery lover!

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Monday, June 13, 2022

Bitch: On the Female of the Species

Bitch: On The Female of the Species- Lucy Cooke

Basic Books/Hachette

Release Date: June 14, 2022

Rating: 📚📚📚📚📚

Synopsis: A fierce, funny, and revolutionary look at the queens of the animal kingdom  

Studying zoology made Lucy Cooke feel like a sad freak. Not because she loved spiders or would root around in animal feces: all her friends shared the same curious kinks. The problem was her sex. Being female meant she was, by nature, a loser.  

Since Charles Darwin, evolutionary biologists have been convinced that the males of the animal kingdom are the interesting ones—dominating and promiscuous, while females are dull, passive, and devoted.  

In Bitch, Cooke tells a new story. Whether investigating same-sex female albatross couples that raise chicks, murderous mother meerkats, or the titanic battle of the sexes waged by ducks, Cooke shows us a new evolutionary biology, one where females can be as dynamic as any male. This isn‘t your grandfather’s evolutionary biology. It’s more inclusive, truer to life, and, simply, more fun.

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I start this review with a confession: I absolutely picked up this book because of the cover. Hyenas are among my favorite animals (even more so after reading Bitch) and a cover featuring a hyena? I wanted to know what that book was about! Reading the synopsis I was a little concerned the science would go over my head, but I knew I had to read this book (or listen, as the case may be- I listened to the audiobook, excellently narrated by author Lucy Cooke herself). So kudos to the cover designers for drawing me in, but after that it was all Lucy. Along the way I started sharing bits with my co-workers and they came to expect updates after lunch breaks. I think I sold this book to all of my colleagues at the indie-bookstore where we work before the book came out based on "So I'm eating my sandwich and learning about . . ." One day this included a customer who was looking for a book to send to her daughter doing a semester abroad in England- her boyfriend had just dumped her for being too "feminist and empowered". I told her that was (unintentionally from his point of view, sadly) the best compliment to give someone and mentioned this book, and that it was probably already out in the UK. A fabulously well done mix of science facts both past and present and female empowerment, it seemed the perfect recommendation for a teenager who had been dumped for being "too feminist".


With that as a background, in case you can't tell, I loved this book and was fascinated from start to finish. Lucy Cooke, an author, National Geographic explorer, and award-winning documentary filmmaker with a master’s degree in zoology from Oxford University, has a brilliant writing style that is both irreverent, witty, and direct. Whether describing Charles Darwin's original evolutionary theory or her own experiences scooping orca poop (yes, that is a scientific thing) you feel as if Cooke is talking directly to you and sharing stories that might interest you. Or shock/enrage you as you come to understand that the "pure science" myth they teach in school is just that- a myth. Females have been sidelined from more than just conducting scientific research since Victorian times, Darwin and the Victorian patriarchy considered females the passive sex and focused their studies on the active, more interesting, males in the animal world. This has carried over far longer into the twentieth and twenty first centuries than I expected, often influencing studies by scientists who would ignore data to get the results they wanted, marginalizing and limiting the amount of research done on females (human health care isn't mentioned but I think we all would agree its an example that would fit here!).


Cooke takes us across the globe and around the animal kingdom, from my beloved hyenas to lesbian albatrosses; from the dark side of matriarchal meerkats they probably don't show on Discovery Channel documentaries to menopausal orcas; a wide variety of spiders and insects and why they eat their sexual partners; sexually promiscuous song birds who completely freaked out scientists; a wide range of matriarchal species defying stereotypical male domination; and "Evolution's Rainbow", perhaps the new theory in evolution as modern science evolves to accept a non-binary approach to nature, redefining what gender means and its place in the natural world.


Bitch: On the Female of the Species takes a humorous but thoroughly researched look at evolution and nature, and (I think) fairly successfully demolishes the stale and sexist myths of a male dominated animal kingdom once and for all. Cooke highlights research done by scientists of all genders to show that moving forward is a new world of thought, working hard to question everything the patriarchal establishment has entrenched as dogma over the centuries. Here, females have their day, their spotlight, as scientists try to learn more and show us what their lives are like, asking the reader to question what they think they know about the world around them, including what it means to be "female".


If you love animals, science, or want to learn about a new avenue of feminism, you absolutely need to read Bitch: On the Female of the Species.


  


I received a free ALC from Libro.fm in exchange for an honest review

Thursday, May 12, 2022

River of the Gods












River of the Gods: Genius, Courage, & Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile- Candice Millard

Doubleday

Release Date: May 17, 2022

Rating: 📚📚📚📚📚

Synopsis: For millennia the location of the Nile River’s headwaters was shrouded in mystery. In the 19th century, there was  a frenzy of interest in ancient Egypt. At the same time, European powers sent off waves of explorations intended to map the unknown corners of the globe – and extend their colonial empires.

Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke were sent by the Royal Geographical Society to claim the prize for England. Burton spoke twenty-nine languages, and was a decorated soldier. He was also mercurial, subtle, and an iconoclastic atheist. Speke was a young aristocrat and Army officer determined to make his mark, passionate about hunting, Burton’s opposite in temperament and beliefs.
 
From the start the two men clashed. They would endure tremendous hardships, illness, and constant setbacks. Two years in, deep in the African interior, Burton became too sick to press on, but Speke did, and claimed he found the source in a great lake that he christened Lake Victoria. When they returned to England, Speke rushed to take credit, disparaging Burton. Burton disputed his claim, and Speke launched another expedition to Africa to prove it. The two became venomous enemies, with the public siding with the more charismatic Burton, to Speke’s great envy. The day before they were to publicly debate,Speke shot himself.
 
Yet there was a third man on both expeditions, his name obscured by imperial annals, whose exploits were even more extraordinary. This was Sidi Mubarak Bombay, who was enslaved and shipped from his home village in East Africa to India. When the man who purchased him died, he made his way into the local Sultan’s army, and eventually traveled back to Africa, where he used his resourcefulness, linguistic prowess and raw courage to forge a living as a guide. Without Bombay and men like him, who led, carried, and protected the expedition, neither Englishman would have come close to the headwaters of the Nile, or perhaps even survived.
 
In 
River of the Gods Candice Millard has written another peerless story of courage and adventure, set against the backdrop of the race to exploit Africa by the colonial powers.

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Candice Millard's (Hero of the Empire) newest book delves into the search for the source of the White Nile by British explorers Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke and their invaluable, extraordinary guide, Sidi Mubarak Bombay. Over multiple trips and many years the men traveled hundred of miles and encountered endless dangers together. With other expedition members, porters, guides, and guards they used (then) Zanzibar as their jumping off point to search for rumored lakes believed to be the source of the Nile River, often nearly starved, died of diseases, insects, and worse. On their second trip, with Burton too ill to continue, Speke and Bombay reached Lake Nyanza (which Speke renamed Lake Victoria), where Speke believed the Nile to originate. Speke didn't prove this to Burton's satisfaction and this doubt was one of the many instances that came between the two explorers to create a rivalry that would last the rest of their lives. 

River of the Gods shows mid-nineteenth century British exploration in all of its complexities: the positive, the negative, and every political, emotional and ethical shade in between. Millard does a good job of balancing Richard Burton and John Speke in the same way. Neither are complete heroes, neither total villains, in their own minds each are completely right in the actions they take and justify themselves along the way. In hindsight we know that the exploration of Africa by England of other countries isn't "just" about the need to fill in blanks on a map- it is leading to complete colonization and further exploitation of people and resources across the continent. We see the contrast of places like Zanzibar: a beautiful paradise of white sandy beaches and clear blue waters, while at the same time one of the worst slave auction sites that bothers even many slavers. Burton is generally someone who takes people as they are, interested in their customs, cultures and languages for what he can learn (whether or not he should) while at the same time being European enough to look down on Africans as a lesser race until the end of his life, while Speke looks down on everyone. What I appreciated about Millard here is that she put everyone's thoughts and actions in the context of their time and not in our modern day sensibilities. We know what we find racist and abhorrent today, so I'd rather know what was the cultural norm at the time and how it changed over the time frame Millard covers, which I thought she did well.   

It is toward the end that she reminds us that there was a third main explorer who deserves as many accolades as Burton and Speke: Sidi Mubarak Bombay. Enslaved as a child, he returned to Africa as an adult and was a trustworthy guide, interpreter, and friend to European explorers like Burton and Speke- and later helped the famous journalist Stanley find Dr. Livingston. Bombay helped shine a light on the native guides and interpreters that Europeans needed to succeed in being "the first" to do so many things, from finding the source of the Nile to climbing Mt. Everest, and that today historians must try to discover the little told stories of these men and women and celebrate them just as much as their more famous (or infamous) European counterparts.

Millard's brilliance for a truly riveting, engaging writing style is evident from page one in River of the Gods, drawing the reader in and refusing to let them go until the final page.  Every step in the exploration, every twist in the bitter verbal sparring between former friends, keeps you emotionally engaged and waiting tensely to see what will happen next.  It isn't just the adventures in Africa that read like adventure stories, it is the entire book.  

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Friday, May 6, 2022

Something Wilder


 










Something Wilder - Christina Lauren

Gallery Books

Release Date- May 17, 2022

Rating: 📚📚📚📚📚

Synopsis: Growing up the daughter of notorious treasure hunter and absentee father Duke Wilder left Lily without much patience for the profession…or much money in the bank. But Lily is nothing if not resourceful, and now uses Duke’s coveted hand-drawn maps to guide tourists on fake treasure hunts through the red rock canyons of Utah. It pays the bills but doesn’t leave enough to fulfill her dream of buying back the beloved ranch her father sold years ago, and definitely not enough to deal with the sight of the man she once loved walking back into her life with a motley crew of friends ready to hit the trails. Frankly, Lily would like to take him out into the wilderness—and leave him there.


Leo Grady knew mirages were a thing in the desert, but they’d barely left civilization when the silhouette of his greatest regret comes into focus in the flickering light of the campfire. Ready to leave the past behind him, Leo wants nothing more than to reconnect with his first and only love. Unfortunately, Lily Wilder is all business, drawing a clear line in the sand: it’s never going to happen.

But when the trip goes horribly and hilariously wrong, the group wonders if maybe the legend of the hidden treasure wasn’t a gimmick after all. There’s a chance to right the wrongs—of Duke’s past and their own—but only if Leo and Lily can confront their history and work together. Alone under the stars in the isolated and dangerous mazes of the Canyonlands, Leo and Lily must decide whether they’ll risk their lives and hearts on the adventure of a lifetime.

From the author of the “heartfelt and funny” (
Publishers Weekly) sensation The Unhoneymooners, this page-turning adventure full of second chances, complicated relationships, and the breathtaking beauty of the American Southwest will take fans on one wild ride.
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Something Wilder is a delightful new Christina Lauren (The Honey-Don't List) romance: a desert adventure turns treasure hunt with Leo and Lily getting a second chance at life and love when neither expected it and both might be exactly where they need to be for it. Ten years after they first meet, Lily is down on her luck and leading tourists on desert adventure trails to make ends meet. Leo, a NYC computer coder, is going on a vacation with friends and gets the surprise of his life when he sees his old flame Lily again. The trip takes a turn sideways and Leo and Lily find themselves in a race for hidden treasure against some people definitely prepared to kill to get it first. 

Lily is fantastic: she needs no help from anyone, has learned not to expect help, or in fact anything, from anyone, and to stand stubbornly on her own two feet as her world crumbles around her. Her mother abandoned her, her father would rather look for treasure and play with codes, and the one guy she thought was hers took off and never contacted her for ten years. She and her friend Nicole are fully capable of being the only women in this part of the 'man's world' and holding their own, standing up for each other, and too bad for anyone who says otherwise. Her dreams of buying back the family ranch and having a life that is her choice and not the result of other people's poor choices is admirable, and you feel terrible for her as we go through the book and learn that maybe her father kept things from her that he really should have shared. I did like how Christina Lauren explained that in the end (I'm not giving anything away with spoilers here so will be purposely vague!) but I still felt bad for the emotional trauma Lily's father caused her. Poor choices, poor planning, and Lily was left thinking neither of her parents cared for her at all and she had to face the world by herself. No wonder she tries to protect herself from loving Leo when he comes back into her life!

Leo blossomed into a man you could count on in the worst of circumstances and trust to have your back through thick and thin- just what Lily needs. He loves codes and puzzles, works with computer codes in NYC and only realizes when he's out in the desert how empty his life has been without Lily in it. Fortunately, he's also brave enough (and smart enough) to figure out quickly that he wants Lily in his life and he's willing to be flexible enough to do whatever she needs so he can be part of her life.  He's so completely and simply in love with Lily (not again, not back, but always) that you melt with it and want to beg her to give him another chance even while the other part of your brain is agreeing with her that how in the world do they work?

This is definitely one of those books where the less you talk about the plot the better for the next reader- the fewer spoilers the more fun!- but let's say it is both like and unlike any other Christina Lauren book I've ever read and I loved it for that. Action, adventure, beautiful and deadly deserts, possible treasure and potential disaster. The higher the stakes the more we see the best and the worst that can be seen in people. Somehow Christina Lauren manages to pack in high-stakes adventure and fast-paced plot while also expertly unwinding enough insanely complicated emotional bombs to make a team of therapists weep. Lily and her obviously complicated emotional relationship with bother of her parents, her trust issues; but also Leo and his parent issues, being a parent to his little sister, having to grow up faster than he expected; and friends with let's just say some issues of their own. How that can all fit into one book and work really well I don't know, but it it did.

Something Wilder is fast-paced, witty, and entertaining, with sparkling writing, delightfully quirky characters, and just the right level of slow-build, smoking hot romance. Just the sort of fun, rom-com adventure to read over the summer (or winter, or on vacation, or ever, and really one you'd love to see on the screen someday . . .) that makes you appreciate true friendship, the occasional gun to the head moment, and outwitting the bad guys who deserve it in so many ways. Possibly my new favorite Christina Lauren book, Something Wilder is a second chance romance full of action, adventure, surprises, friendship, and love.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Friday, April 29, 2022

Kiss Hard

 


Kiss Hard (Hard Play 4)- Nalini Singh

TKA Distribution

Release Date: May 3, 2022

Rating: 📚📚📚📚📚

Synopsis: Daniel Esera is a young god on the rugby field, a sexy and charming man who's got the world at his feet. There's just one problem: his sudden potent attraction to his number one nemesis--Catie River. No. Just no. Not happening.

Catie River is on her way to Paralympic gold, and she's not about to allow Danny "Hotshot" Esera to derail her plans. Too bad her body isn't cooperating. Even worse? Her heart might be coming along for the ride. No. Nope. Never.

The pair are united in their desire to remain enemies... until a stranger's reckless action threatens both their careers. Now, the only way out for Catie and Danny is to pretend to be in a relationship. How bad can it be? They're adults in full control of their hormones and their hearts. There will be no kissing. No PDA. And definitely no falling in love.
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Anyone who has been along for the ride as Nalini Singh introduces us to the Bishop-Esera men and the women they love (Rock HardCherish HardLove Hard) will enjoy Kiss Hard, where Danny Esera, young rugby star, and Catie River, a professional runner, finally change their relationship status from frenemies to lovers. Anyone new to the series will be hard pressed not to instantly fall in love with this closely knit family and cheer for the youngest brother to get his happy ending.

 Danny and Catie have known each other since they were teens and always had the kind of snarking, pranking relationship that best friends or siblings might have. As adults the snark and humor is part of their brand on social media and their fans love the banter that everyone is sure is flirtatious fun. When a situation comes up where they need to pretend to be dating, everyone outside the family buys the act and are happy to cheer the relationship on. But what happens when it becomes more than an act- for both of them?

Fake dating, enforced proximity, enemies to lovers- they may sound like stereotypes that have been done to death but here Singh makes everything fresh and new, and makes you hope for the moment when the heroes are ready to push past their fears and admit they want a real relationship. Catie has been hurt before, learning as a child never to emotionally depend on or reach out to anyone based on an emotionally distant mother and a feckless gambling father. She's not sure how to break down her walls and allow herself to be emotionally vulnerable to anyone outside of her tiny circle, even for Danny. Singh makes you cry for her as she struggles between her new love and her ingrained need to never allow anyone to hurt her. She has plenty of confidence in herself, yet still finds herself wondering if/when Danny will get bored and move on because she learned from her father that this is what men do. I also really loved how emotionally vulnerable Danny could be at times- his worries about living up to his brother's lives and standards, even though no one in the family is pushing him to do so, are something I wouldn't have guessed a confident looking man would have in his head, yet here it is, messing with him even though it shouldn't be an issue. Danny does a great job (or Singh, through Danny) as an example of how everyone needs help once and awhile, and you can only hope more real life examples stand up to help erase the stigma around treating our mental health the way we do physical health. 

The chemistry between Danny and Catie are sizzling, even when they don't want it to be there, the emotions leap off the page and wrap around you in the best possible way.  A wonderful story of two people battling more than others would expect to find exactly where they need to be, and exactly who they need to be with. 

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Book Lovers


 Book Lovers- Emily Henry

Berkley/Penguin Group

Release Date: May 3, 2022

Rating: 📚📚📚📚

Synopsis: 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.
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Confession- this is the first of Emily Henry's books that I've read, despite knowing that they are hugely popular and selling about a million of them as a bookseller. That said, I wasn't sure what to expect from the book. Was I going to love it because everyone loves Emily Henry's other books or be really disappointed because everyone loves Emily Henry's other books?

The writing style wasn't one I was a fan of- it went a little too stream of consciousness and heavy on the descriptive metaphors for me. Because of that it took me awhile to get into the book, but when I did, I really enjoyed the plot.  It's a clever reverse on the typical romance book trope. Nora is the character who is career driven, focused, problem solving, loves NYC, and usually the one in movies or books the hero ultimately leaves for the small town heroine. Its happened to her multiple times in fact. Her married sister Libby is more the typical romance heroine- flighty, fun loving, the Marianne to her Eleanor. The two are incredibly close, but lately things have been off so when Libby wants to take a sisters' vacation, Nora agrees and hopes they can reconnect. Libby sets up a bizarre, small town get-away with a list of things for them to do that are classic small town romance book items and Nora isn't sure about she's going to enjoy her vacation. But in comes Charlie, her professional nemesis from New York, also in town for the month. And suddenly she finds herself having more fun than she'd planned.

Nora and Charlie are not your typical main characters or romance heroes, and that's why I liked them so much. They are sharks in the literary world- Nora is a cutthroat literary agent and Charlie is a killer editor- and at first meet are far too similar to even politely pretend to stand one another. But beneath the shark smiles are deep vulnerabilities they refuse to allow anyone to see, and heavy protective needs towards the few they love. These are people who don't want to change, don't want kids, don't want to work less and party more- they like their lives (mostly) as is, despite what society may tell them about being wrong. It takes a lot of courage to be that person, and Emily Henry peels back some incredibly insightful layers about how much courage that really takes. Henry reminds us that even the people who seem to have it the most together on the outside, or the ones we think we know the best, have hidden vulnerabilities, hidden pieces that make them the way they are, and that even the strongest of us need love and support from family and friends to make it through the tough times.

A love story to New York, to the power of books, the power of family, and the power of love- in all its aspects, this was a delightful plot with twists on the typical tropes that will keep you smiling.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review