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LOVE AT FIRST BOOK

Romance meets bookstore cozy in this well-told story.

A woman from Martha’s Vineyard accepts a year-long position in Ireland helping her favorite author finish the last book in a famous series.

Twenty-nine-year-old Emily Allen grew up with Siobhan Riordan’s books about Tig McMorrow. The characters were like a family to her as her parents’ marriage imploded due to her mother’s abuse and narcissism; her father married a woman Emily went to high school with, and she spent years meekly taking care of her mother although nothing was wrong with her. One day she writes to Siobhan, begging her to finish the final book in the series, which the world has been awaiting for 10 years. Siobhan replies, offering her a part-time job as her assistant and another part-time job working at her bookstore, the Last Chapter, in Finn’s Hollow, Ireland. Sparks fly as soon as Emily meets Kieran Murphy, Siobhan’s adult son, who manages the bookstore and didn’t think hiring her was a good idea. This is a cleverly written forced proximity romance for book lovers; Emily and Kieran frequently banter about books and authors, and McKinlay winks to romance readers through Emily’s daydreams and flirtatious conversations between her and Kieran about what they’d be doing if they were characters in romance novels. The book gains emotional depth as the reason for Siobhan’s failure to write for 10 years comes to light, and though, of course, there’s a happily-ever-after, grief and happiness are entwined.

Romance meets bookstore cozy in this well-told story.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9780593545744

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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JUST FOR THE SUMMER

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Two people with bad luck in relationships find each other through a popular Reddit thread.

Emma Grant and her best friend, Maddy, are travel nurses, working at hospitals for three-month stints while they see the country. Just a few weeks before they’re set to move to Hawaii, Emma reads a popular “Am I the Asshole” Reddit thread from a Minnesota man who thinks he’s cursed—women he dates find their soulmates after breaking up with him, and the latest one found true love with his best friend! Emma has had a similar experience, which inspires her to DM the man and commiserate. She’s delighted by her witty, lively interactions with software engineer Justin Dahl, and is intrigued when he suggests that if they date each other, maybe they’ll each find their soulmate afterward. Emma upends the Hawaii plan and convinces Maddy to move to Minneapolis for the summer so she can meet Justin in person. The overly complex setup brings Emma and Justin together and the two hit it off, with Justin immediately falling head over heels for Emma. Jimenez then pivots to creating romantic roadblocks and melodramatic subplots centering on each character’s family of origin. Justin’s mother is about to serve six years in prison for embezzlement, which means Justin must move back home to care for his three much younger siblings. Emma was traumatized by her own mother for much of her childhood, left to fend for herself and eventually abandoned in the foster system. When her mother shows up in Minnesota, Emma must face her traumatic childhood and admit that she has prioritized her mother’s well-being over her own. There is little time devoted to Emma’s painful efforts to heal herself enough to accept Justin’s love, which leaves the novel feeling unsatisfying.

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781538704431

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Forever

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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HAPPY PLACE

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

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Exes pretend they’re still together for the sake of their friends on their annual summer vacation.

Wyn Connor and Harriet Kilpatrick were the perfect couple—until Wyn dumped Harriet for reasons she still doesn’t fully understand. They’ve been part of the same boisterous friend group since college, and they know that their breakup will devastate the others and make things more than a little awkward. So they keep it a secret from their friends and families—in fact, Harriet barely even admits it to herself, focusing instead on her grueling hours as a surgical resident. She’s ready for a vacation at her happy place—the Maine cottage she and her friends visit every summer. But (surprise!) Wyn is there too, and he and Harriet have to share a (very romantic) room and a bed. Telling the truth about their breakup is out of the question, because the cottage is up for sale, and this is the group’s last hurrah. Determined to make sure everyone has the perfect last trip, Harriet and Wyn resolve to fake their relationship for the week. The problem with this plan, of course, is that Harriet still has major feelings for Wyn—feelings that only get stronger as they pretend to be blissfully in love. As always, Henry’s dialogue is sparkling and the banter between characters is snappy and hilarious. Wyn and Harriet’s relationship, shown both in the past and the present, feels achingly real. Their breakup, as well as their complicated relationships with their own families, adds a twinge of melancholy, as do the relatable growing pains of a group of friends whose lives are taking them in different directions.

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780593441275

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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