Book Lovers by Emily Henry Spoilers Ahead
Emily Henry is, without question, one of the best romance novelists of our time. Beach Read will always be modern romance that got me into reading the genre, but the same cannot be said for People We Meet on Vacation, which I was personally upset I couldn’t quite devour the way I wanted to. However, Book Lovers by Emily Henry is a delight in every way and a novel that needs a spot of everyone’s shelf.
Book Lovers is thematically heavier than both Beach Read and People We Meet on Vacation, but that’s partly where the book shines. Nora Stephens is a version of so many of us and Charlie Lastra is the kind of man we all deserve. Still, as much as Book Lovers by Emily Henry is a romance novel, it’s largely an exploration of grief and the kind of story that elder siblings will especially relate to.
Now, as much as I enjoyed Book Lovers by Emily Henry, it’d be misleading if I didn’t voice how difficult it was for me to actually find myself invested in the storyline. And this might very well be a “me issue,” but it bears noting because it’s the exact issue I had with People We Meet on Vacation. Henry is an absolute wordsmith, which means her imagery and setup always feels incredibly visceral, but because of that, the set up is so immersive at times that it takes me out of the romance, focusing more on the mysterious question that I’m itching for an answer to. (This is why I don’t read thriller, folks, like Nora, I’d be flipping to the very last page to find out exactly what’s going to happen because I can’t handle the suspense.)
In that regard, Henry does something fascinating by almost allowing us an opportunity to understand our heroine that much more closely, but when you’re anxious and reading a romance novel for an escape, it might not do the trick immediately. Because the novel is solely through Nora’s point of view and we as the audience didn’t know Libby’s secret, I was terrified at the reveal and needed to text a friend who’d seen it to find out exactly what it was before I could continue reading. And that’s a large part of the reason why People We Meet on Vacation didn’t work for me because the thing that came between Poppy and Alex was so underwhelming compared to the setup.
Again, this is a testament to Henry’s writing for her writing is so immersive that once you’re sucked in, you’re part of this world in such a way where it almost feels personal. And thus, the omniscient tone surrounding Libby’s reasons for wanting to visit Sunshine Falls immediately sent me into a spiral thinking the absolute worst. Thankfully, that’s far from the case and Book Lovers by Emily Henry comes to a satisfying conclusion when her motives are revealed. The idea of Libby wanting Nora to come with her because she wants her sister by her side was heartwarming in every way and the confrontation the women finally have is beat by beat gratifying in how organically its handled.
Still, as much as this is an exquisite romance novel with an earned happy ending, Book Lovers might just be the heaviest I’ve read. And for anyone who’s in need of a trigger warning know that how this novel explores grief is both cathartic and genuinely heartbreaking. As someone who’s lost a parent, it’s also part of the reason why I couldn’t inhale every page as quickly as I generally do. The conversations surrounding death weren’t always easy to read, but beautifully vulnerable nevertheless.
And that earned happy ending comes with the kind of small town heartwarming gesture that if you’re anything like me you’ll find yourself ugly crying in the middle of the night while reading the final few pages. Charlie and Nora feel like home and how Henry gradually pulls them together from their initial meeting is a marvel for which there are few words for. It’s an earned progression as two people who not only misjudge one another, but in more ways than one have a lot to learn about themselves. The tropes work brilliantly for the two of them and the various conversations about books is a delight not many could pull off without it feeling redundant.
How and why Charlie Lastra earns his spot in editing will melt every heart in existence, making it that much more frustrating that the best men are in fact written by women. A universally acknowledged truth Jane Austen could’ve also acknowledged. And if you loved Bridgerton Season 2, specifically with Kate Sharma and Anthony Bridgerton‘s story, there’s a high chance that this novel will have the same appeal.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry dives into places we might not want to go but we’ll understand why it’s necessary when we get there and it intermingles romance and platonic relationships beautifully. And as Henry does best, it reminds us why romance novels are special while bringing to the surface the importance of words and the stories we choose to tell.