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A recent newsletter by one of our favorite booksellers, Emma Nichols of the Norwich Bookstore, discussed romance novels and their ability to entertain even when our attention span is miniscule.
We initially ignored her train of thought as we don't consider ourselves romance readers and yet...
And yet ... we recently found ourselves listening to two novels that we would best describe as "rom-coms" (think of Notting Hill, or Sweet Home Alabama, or any of Nora Ephron's movies - think When Henry Met Sally). And, Emma's note reminded us to share these two novels with you.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry (2022). This is the most Nora Ephron-like of the two books we highlight today. In this novel, Nora (Ephron tribute or coincidence?) knows she is not the typical romance heroine. She is not the one the guy falls for. She is the one the guy is initially coupled with - the brittle, career-driven, bottle blond who is left behind for a wholesome, brunette or darker blond woman by the end of the movie (think of the women in The Parent Trap). But she adores her sister Libby and she has vacation days. Thus, she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for a sisters’ trip. Libby envisions this as a small town transformation for Nora. She even makes a multi-point list of things they must do while away to appeal to Nora's uber efficient personality. However, instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a rugged doctor from the list, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie, a brooding editor, from back in New York City, who she abhors. You can sort of guess what comes next; but Emily Henry packs in enough twists to keep things interesting and writes with a festive flair that keeps pages turning. We recommend that you just enjoy this and spend a bit of time casting it in your head for the inevitable movie (eg Reese Witherspoon or Cameron Diaz would have been Libby in their 20 something years, not sure who'd be Libby now).
Forward March by Skye Quinlan (2022). This YA novel is a bit different from the rom-coms we grew up watching in the 80s and 90s, and we loved it for that fact alone. The novel swims with important representation of sexual identity, something that seems perfect to explore in YA as readers figure out sex, gender, love, and life. Forward March even throws in contemporary politics because the plot circles around the facts that Harper's (the main character) dad is running for President as a Republican, her mom is the headmaster of her prep school, and both of their conservative bents are, to understate the situation a bit, challenging for Harper and her friends of many sexual identities. Add an online dating app fiasco, and you have this great YA novel. If you don't trust us yet, School Library Journal had this to say about Skye Quinlan's debut, "Quinlan skillfully weaves everything together brilliantly into one very natural-feeling, heartwarming, and compelling story [...] A wonderful ace rom-com bursting at the seams with representation [...]"