Two driven, bookish New Yorkers meet their match in the small town of Sunshine Falls, North Carolina. Literary agent Nora Stephens is worried about her younger sister Libby, pregnant with her third child. When Libby suggests they spend August in Sunshine Falls, Nora agrees. One of her clients set a popular book there, and Libby has a list of small town activities, covering every romantic comedy trope. Nora is still busy with work, and when searching for a spot with good wi-fi, runs into Charlie Lastra, a book editor she dislikes. Charlie is helping his mother run the local bookstore, while also working remotely as an editor. Nora and Charlie reluctantly spend a lot of time together, gradually bonding over their love of books and publishing, striking plenty of sparks.
The focus of the story is partly on Nora and Charlie but also on the sibling relationship of Nora and Libby. Libby wants a sister, not another mother figure, and encourages Nora to relax and enjoy life a bit more. There is plenty of humor, witty banter, and the acknowledgement that workaholic city women deserve happiness too. The characters are realistically flawed yet still appealing. While there’s no diversity here, this engaging novel is a compelling, entertaining read. Readalikes include The Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberley, Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson, and Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan.
I picked this book up to read a romantic comedy set in a small town about home renovation, but what surprised and delighted me are the well-developed supporting characters, the theme of found family, and the very funny dialogue. Also a goofy dog who adopts two kittens. I find watching home renovation shows on television to be relaxing, but it’s probably not at all relaxing to produce them. Maggie and her best friend Dean renovate houses and have a popular YouTube channel. When they finish a project they move on, usually to another state. Dean would like to settle down in one place, but not Maggie. Then Maggie buys a Victorian mansion in Kinship, Idaho, where she visited as a girl. She has an instant attraction to Silas, a local landscape designer. Silas introduces her to his big, messy family and is interested in more than a summer fling. The town of Kinship is best known for a nearby stagecoach robbery and there are rumors of buried treasure. Laugh out loud funny and a memorable read; I will have to check out some of Lucy Score’s other novels. Readalike authors include Tessa Bailey, Jen DeLuca and Jennifer Crusie.
Miranda and her best friend Ian run a literary agency, which she helps support with her teen fantasy series, written under a pseudonym. Miranda’s fans are angry because she killed off a character, and now she has writer’s block. When her younger sister Cordelia, a pastry chef, asks Miranda’s help in dealing with their mom, she goes home to Bard’s Rest, New Hampshire, to work remotely for the summer. Miranda, Cordelia, and lawyer Portia’s mother, an organizer for the town’s annual Shakespeare Festival, is putting off some medical procedures. Perhaps Miranda can either talk some sense into her mother or bribe her with the first look at Miranda’s manuscript, when it’s finally finished.
Miranda and her large dog Puck visit the local animal clinic, only to find Adam Winter subbing as veterinarian for his dad. Adam is great with animals, and is helping Miranda’s sweet father build the sets for the festival, but took Portia to their high school prom instead of Miranda. Is she still mad at Adam? Will her mother stop procrastinating her health needs? Will the whole town and many tourists go mad for the Bard’s plays? Also, will Miranda find the inspiration to finish her book? It’s not hard to answer these questions, but the charming festival town setting makes for a very appealing first novel about sisterhood, the life of a writer, the magic of Shakespeare’s plays, and a little romance. Readalikes include Well Played by Jen DeLuca, The Fixer Upper by Lauren Forsythe, and The Falcon Always Wings Twice by Donna Andrews.
Other than watching movies with her friends and going running, Olive Smith spends all her time in Stanford’s biology lab. A third year Ph.D. student, Olive wants her friend Anh to date her ex-boyfriend Jeremy. To convince Anh that she’s completely over Jeremy, Olive impulsively kisses hot and grumpy professor Adam Carlsen, then convinces him to fake-date her. Olive is Canadian, and has no remaining family other than her grad-student friends. A fear of public speaking has her questioning if she can make a career in academia. Adam, who also enjoys running, is known for his blunt evaluations of his students, and has a reputation for rudeness. He is nothing but kind to Olive, and is happy to fake-date her for his own reasons, usually on weekly coffee dates, though he can’t stand the smell of pumpkin spice lattes. They are in different departments, so dating is allowed. When forced to share a room at a conference in Boston, things heat up, and Olive struggles with how to handle another professor’s harassment. Witty, snarky banter enlivens this engaging romantic comedy written by a female neuroscientist. Hazelwood’s Love on the Brain is the top Library Reads pick for August, and another book is scheduled for January. Readalike authors include Talia Hibbert, Denise Williams, Jen DeLuca, and Suzanne Park.
Dahlia Woodson, a self-taught chef, is feeling stressed and finds her fellow Chef’s Special competitors intimidating, and sometime grumpy. London is dealing with having come out as non-binary on television, and they are distracted by Dahlia’s energy, klutziness, and long wavy hair. Of course, the pair become friends, feel attraction, and begin a romance. That’s about all that’s predictable in this warmhearted yet snarky romantic comedy set on a fictional cooking show, Chef’s Special. Readers will enjoy spending time on the set with Dahlia and London, along with armchair travel as they explore greater Los Angeles. The descriptions of the cooking and baking competition are fun, and the memorable characters make for very good company. Readalikes include Battle Royal by Lucy Parker and Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers.
I recently read a historical romantic comedy and two contemporary romantic comedies, or rom-coms, and enjoyed reading all three books. If you’re in the mood for some light, entertaining reads, check out one or more of these titles.
Hugh Standish, an earl in 1820s England, has a matchmaking mother who lives in America with his stepfather. He doesn’t think he’d make a good husband, and invents a fiancée named Miranda to keep his mother from finding him a real wife. His letters about the fictional Miranda’s serious illness and father’s death have delayed any wedding plans, but Hugh has run out of excuses. When Hugh helps a lovely engraver collect money she’s owed, he is stunned to learn her name is Minerva. Quite soon, Miranda and two two younger sisters are visiting his country estate, along with an actress hired to play their mother, getting lessons in etiquette and fine dining, when his family arrives early. Hugh’s mother is surprised to learn that Miranda can’t ride a horse or sing, and is getting suspicious. Some very funny scenes delight the reader while Hugh and Miranda bicker, and of course, fall in love. Readers of Julia Quinn’s Smythe-Smith quartet will likely enjoy.
Kate Sweet, an event planner known for weddings with an “aww” moment, is asked by her best friend to fill in and organized horror writer Drake Matthews’ book launch. The pair are uncomfortable spending time together, especially after a disastrous introduction. Drake is secretly writing a historical romance, while super-organized Kate is struggling with her plans for the elaborate book party. While I’ve never heard of a book launch quite so elaborate, it makes for entertaining reading. Kate and Drake’s chemistry is fun to read about, especially as the both deny their mutual attraction.
Another pretend relationship turns friends into lovers when April Parker asks Mitch Malone for help with some home improvements so she can sell her house and move to a nearby city. Mitch, a high school gym teacher and coach, is known for his performances in a kilt at the local renaissance Faire, yet needs a pretend girlfriend for a big family dinner. When Mitch’s family unexpectedly visits the Faire, April steps in again, and somehow their relationship doesn’t feel so fake anymore. Well Played and Well Met are the earlier rom-coms set at Willow Creek’s Renaissance Faire.
Another top notch romantic comedy from the author of The Wedding Date and Royal Holiday. Olivia Monroe has just moved to Los Angeles from New York City to start a law firm with her friend Ellie. Staying in a hotel before she moves into a rental, she chats with the hotel bartender about the lack of traditional desserts on the menus of trendy restaurants. A handsome stranger chimes in, and Olivia and Max enjoy a flirtatious conversation. She is surprised to see Max on the new that night; he’s California’s junior senator. They reconnect at a fundraiser, and Max sends dessert to her office. He is smitten, but she’s hesitant, especially as a black woman, to date a politician. Max is impulsive where Olivia takes her time making decisions; except what to have for dessert. When the pair go public with their relationship, it’s predictably stressful. Both accomplished professionals in their late thirties, I enjoyed their witty banter and descriptions of Olivia’s work. She definitely takes center stage; Max and his work as a senator are downplayed. This was a really enjoyable light read. Readalikes include The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole, and Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert.
Four years after judge Dominic De Vere voted Sylvie Fairchild off Operation Cake when her unicorn cake exploded and showered him with edible glitter, the pair are rival business owners in Notting Hill, London. Sylvie has opened Sugar Fair, a bakery straight out of a fairy tale, across the street from the traditional De Vere’s, where delicious cakes are beautifully decorated, mostly in white or perhaps ivory. Sylvie is asked to fill in as a judge on Operation Cake, where she gets to know the stern and prickly judge as a fellow business owner, and they gradually become friends. When Princess Rose announces her engagement to John Marchmont, the pair are finalists to bake the royal wedding cake, and end up doing research on the royal family together, with witty banter, tender moments and irresistible chemistry. I thoroughly enjoyed Dominic and Sylvie’s story, and the audiobook narration of Billie Fulford-Brown. A second Palace Insiders is planned, featuring Dominic’s younger sister.
Ruthie Midona, 25, works in a retirement community and rarely leaves the grounds. She lives on the property and rarely leaves, except to shop at a local thrift store. When two wealthy 90-year-olds need a new personal assistant, Ruthie runs their errands until the community’s new owner suggests his son Teddy, who’s trying to save money for a tattoo parlor. Teddy is staying in the adjoining villa, and is clearly fascinated by Ruthie, when not busy with the hilarious requests made by the Parloni sisters. Temp Melanie is creating a dating profile for Ruthie, who hasn’t dated in years, and helps organize the residents’ holiday party. Opposites definitely attract for Ruthie and Teddy in this sweet and funny romantic comedy. An April LibraryReads pick, this is a funny and heartwarming story about how friends can become your found family. Readalikes include I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella and Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert.
The Tuesday Evening Book Group recently read and discussed The Tourist Attraction, a romantic comedy that begins the Moose Springs, Alaska series by Morgenthaler. This is the sequel; fun, heartwarming, and full of small town Alaska quirkiness. Rick Harding runs the local pool hall/pizza joint and caters only to locals, not tourists. He lives with his nephew Diego, who reluctantly works at the town’s resort. Unexpectedly, Rick falls for rich developer Lana Montgomery, who just might be interested. Lana and her friend Zoey have taken up the challenge to find the Santa Moose, a rogue moose who has it in for the town’s holiday decorations. Lana wants her family’s company to build luxury condos in Moose Springs, but the local residents aren’t very welcoming. This is a fun, light read. A third book, Enjoy the View, is expected in January. Mistletoe & Mr. Right will be published October 6.