A look at what’s steaming up the shelves this month.
July is the time of year when my reading usually hits a lull because I’m busy finding things to keep my kids entertained. (One of them just said, “I’m bored” for the 751st time since the last day of school.) Still, I’ve come up with some creative ways to keep myself reading: Family reading hour! Thirty minutes of reading while dinner is cooking! Just one more chapter before bedtime! You get the picture.
But my favorite bookish motivator right now is the public library’s summer reading program. It’s not just for kids, you know! (And my library is giving away gift cards at the end of summer, so, bonus!) Here are a couple of titles I added to my reading log this month.
The aptly named Book Lovers (Berkley) was my first read by Emily Henry. I’m happy to say it won’t be my last.
NYC literary agent Nora Stephens is known as a shark. So, what is she doing in the small, WiFi-challenged town of Sunshine Falls, North Carolina? Her pregnant sister, Libby, has coerced her into taking a monthlong vacation in the place Nora’s top client made famous in a bestselling novel.
Despite feeling like a fish (er, shark) out of water, Nora is anxious to close the distance that has grown between Libby and her, whatever it takes. So, she agrees to everything Libby wants: a girls’ trip to Sunshine Falls, a reduced workload (within reason), and a long to-do list that includes all the small-town romance-novel tropes, like dating a handsome local, saving a mom-and-pop business, and camping under the stars.
But before Nora can even enjoy the fresh country air, she runs into someone she knows from the city — curmudgeonly book editor Charlie Lastra. Nora and Charlie have only met once in person, and it wasn’t a positive experience for either of them. In fact, Charlie rejected the book that went on to make Sunshine Falls famous.
Charlie has his own reasons for being in North Carolina, and as is the way of small towns, he and Nora bump into each other again and again. As Nora gets to know the aloof Charlie, and Charlie coaxes her to open up, romance begins to blossom. But the situation is complicated in so many ways and by so many things — not the least of which is Nora’s belief that women like her aren’t destined to find (or keep) true love.
Layered with plenty of laugh-out-loud humor, heart-tugging poignancy, and scorching-hot sexual tension, Book Lovers is the type of romance fiction I recommend to people who insist they aren’t fans of romance. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Emily Henry puts her own marvelous spin on all of the small-town tropes without ever once making fun of the people who embrace small-town life.
How much did I adore Book Lovers? I ordered both of Henry’s previous novels before I even reached the end.
For the past five years, aspiring playwright Winnie has been the dutiful personal assistant to successful, eccentric playwright Juliette Brassard. To Winnie, Juliette is more than a boss; she’s her mentor, her inspiration, and even something of a mother figure. Juliette is going to London for a new production of her best-known play, and Winnie plans to use the time to complete her own languishing play while Juliette is away. That is, until Juliette ropes her into going abroad with her.
The dynamic between the women lays the groundwork for the looming professional and personal conflict. Headed to England to give Juliette the support she claims to need, the best Winnie can hope for is to squeeze in some writing time and get her mentor’s long-promised feedback.
As it turns out, London sparks more than creativity for Winnie when she falls into a fling with Juliette’s handsome, charming nephew, Liam. The chemistry between them is undeniable and near impossible to hide, hard as they might try. Keeping her relationship with Liam under wraps while managing Juliette’s forceful personality ends up being more than Winnie can manage. Sparks fly in all directions, with misunderstandings and awkwardness aplenty as Winnie learns to stand up for herself and decide what she really wants — and how to get it.
As with her first book, Kate Bromley delivers a swoon-worthy hero in Liam and a likable, interesting protagonist to cheer for in Winnie. Juliette’s larger-than-life personality and the behind-the-scenes details of the theater scene add to this memorable tale.
Kristina Wright lives in Virginia with her husband, their two sons, two dogs, a cat, and a parrot. She’s a regular contributor at BookBub and a lifelong fan of romance fiction. Find her on Twitter at @kristinawright or on Bookshop, where she features other book recommendations.