I always say I won’t read another love story when I’m done with one. Then when I’m swamped with work and need a light read, I’ll pick up yet another one. A love story doesn’t require me to think too much about the characters and be consumed by their problems. These are what I want to read when I don’t want to invest too much mental energy in a story. But the thing is, all love stories are the same. And halfway through these books, I’m exasperated and a little mad at myself.
I have a few problems with romance novels. First, it instills a clichéd idea of romance: that it’s all about candlelit dinners, stargazing, and elaborate confessions of love. Second, it’s too trope heavy. Boy meets girl, they don’t like each other, but there’s a lot of sexual tension between the two that they both try to quash before eventually discovering they are perfect for each other. Throw in some mental hang-ups, misunderstandings or reservations on either side (that get sorted out in dramatic ways) and you pretty much have any love story ever written. I don’t like character portrayals in romance novels either. I find them sexist. Love stories are also predictable and cheesy.
‘Book Lovers’ by Emily Henry is the third Henry book I’ve read, after ‘You and Me on Vacation’ and ‘Beach Read’. Both were immensely hyped on social media specially Bookstagram and BookTube. I enjoyed reading them. They were fun while they lasted.
‘Book Lovers’ is about Nora and Charlie, who work in publishing. Nora is a literary agent and Charlie is an editor. Nora isn’t fond of Charlie, especially after he bluntly rejected a book by one of her favorite clients, Dusty. Then, Nora’s sister, Libby, plans a trip to Sunshine Falls and the two bump into each other at the small town where, surprise, romance ensues.
I didn’t hate ‘Book Lovers’ but I was disappointed by it as it had nothing new to offer. It felt like a rehash of one of the many love stories I’ve read over the years. I also cringed in many places—when Libby refers to Nora as ‘sissy’ and when Nora says, ‘Tonight, can I just have you, Charlie?’ There are plenty of other such stupid dialogues and instances that made my eyes roll far back into my head.
Nora is a strong woman. She’s raised her sister all on her own after their mother passed away. She’s gotten them out of debt and made a name for herself in publishing. There’s nothing she can’t do and nothing that she wouldn’t do for Libby. But, like the female protagonists of most love stories, her steely exterior is a façade for her loneliness. It takes a man, Charlie in this case, to make her tune into her feelings. The romance genre thrives on this trope. ‘Book Lovers’ had so much potential with its interesting setting but it ended up being another average romance novel.