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Book Lovers

Book Lovers

by Emily Henry

Narrated by Julia Whelan

Unabridged — 11 hours, 23 minutes

Emily Henry

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Overview

“One of my favorite authors.”-Colleen Hoover

An insightful, delightful, instant #1 New York Times bestseller from the author of Beach Read and People We Meet on Vacation.

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2022 by Oprah Daily ¿ Today ¿ Parade ¿ Marie Claire ¿ Bustle ¿ PopSugar ¿ Katie Couric Media ¿ Book Bub ¿ SheReads ¿ Medium ¿ The Washington Post ¿ and more!

One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn't see coming...

Nora Stephens' life is books-she's read them all-and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters' trip away-with visions of a small town transformation for Nora, who she's convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they've met many times and it's never been cute.

If Nora knows she's not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he's nobody's hero, but as they are thrown together again and again-in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow-what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they've written about themselves.


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

02/21/2022

A summer trip spurs unexpected self-discovery in bestseller Henry’s latest rom-com (after People We Meet on Vacation), a moving examination of love, belonging, and family. Since childhood, literary agent Nora Stephens has structured her life around taking care of her sister, Libby, four years her junior, so when an exhausted and—Nora fears—increasingly distant Libby suggests a monthlong trip to small-town Sunshine Falls, N.C., Nora eagerly agrees. As she wrestles with Libby’s irritability and strives to make her happy while trying to find her own equilibrium—including making a surprising connection with her professional nemesis, editor Charlie Lastra, a Sunshine Falls native—Nora must turn fresh eyes on old problems. Meanwhile, things heat up between Charlie and Nora, but the demands of their professional lives may keep them apart. Henry expertly captures the complexities of close but unbalanced familial relationships along with the distance between the dreams of youth and the realities of adulthood. As usual, her sharp eye for detail in establishing setting and creating empathetic characters engages the reader, and Nora’s well-shaded emotional struggles complement the steamy enemies-to-lovers plot and lovely scenery. This introspective romance is sure to please. Agent: Taylor Haggerty, Root Literary. (May)

From the Publisher

[Book Lovers] is multilayered and the characters' familial challenges are complex. By both playing to and overtly subverting romance tropes and archetypes like the high-powered big city woman who neglects her family and the life-affirming power of small-town life, this novel delivers an insightful comedic meditation on love, family and going your own way."—NPR

“If Emily Henry makes herself laugh at the character's dialogue in her own books, it's understandable. She is a master at witty repartee….It's a safe bet that viewers would enjoy seeing Henry's characters come to life on screen."—Associated Press

“It is humanly impossible for Emily Henry to write a bad book. Her particular blend of grief and messy relationships is a heady cocktail of intoxicating yearning…Whatever Henry decides to spear, be it literary posturing or vacation rom-com, she subverts her subjects in the most delicious ways."—Entertainment Weekly

Book Lovers is a treat from start to finish, flipping the conventional small-town love story trope on its head…This enemies-to-lovers novel is a quick and satisfying binge-read.”USA Today

“One of my favorite authors.”
Colleen Hoover, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Book Lovers is a rom-com lover's dream of a book. It is razor-sharp and modern, featuring a fierce heroine who does not apologize for her ambition and heartfelt discussions of grief. Readers know that Emily Henry never fails to deliver great banter and a romance to swoon over but this may just be her best yet. A breath of fresh air.” 
Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Malibu Rising

“I would follow Emily Henry anywhere. A small town, a literary enterprise, a bookstore to rescue, and sex in moonlit streams? Yes, please! Book Lovers is sexy, funny, and smart. Another perfectly satisfying read from the unstoppable Emily Henry.” 
Emma Straub, New York Times bestselling author of All Adults Here

"Emily Henry's books are a gift, the perfect balance between steamy and sweet. The prose is effortless, the characters charming. The only downside is reaching the end." 
V.E. Schwab, New York Times bestselling author The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

"Charming, earnest, and clever, Book Lovers is Schitt's Creek for book nerds. A total delight for anyone who's ever secretly rooted for the career girl in a Hallmark movie. Nobody does it quite like Emily Henry.”  
Casey McQuiston, New York Times bestselling author of One Last Stop

"You KNOW I love a book—and a writer—when I bust out my trusty ballpoint and absolutely maul the pages...and that's exactly what I just did to the divine Emily Henry. I could not devour Book Lovers fast enough. Emily Henry is pure delight. I’m utterly enchanted by her wry, self-aware sense of humor, the relish that she brings to every cleverly crafted sentence, and her irrepressible love for love.”
Katherine Center, New York Times bestselling author of Things You Save in a Fire and How to Walk Away

“Emily Henry writes romantic comedy with such sass and humour, she has that gift for making you laugh and cry within the space of a few sentences. Not to mention the sizzling chemistry! Her characters fizz like good champagne, they leap off the page and into your heart."
Josie Silver, New York Times bestselling author of One Night on the Island

“Magical, delightful, and utterly one of a kind: Emily Henry's writing is a gift to the world. I've loved every single one of her books more than the previous, to the point that I cannot wait to see what her next title will do to me!"
Ali Hazelwood, New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis

Book Lovers is the perfect title for this utterly romantic read featuring two book industry insiders with crackling chemistry. Heartfelt, funny, and full of joy, Emily Henry’s latest is packed with surprising twists and turns that keep you rooting for Nora and Charlie, every step of the way. (Also, three cheers for Nora’s super-relatable bangs journey!)”
—Tia Williams, New York Times bestselling author of Seven Days in June

“When I read an Emily Henry novel I always feel a particularly undignified kind of jealousy, because I wish I'd written it. Book Lovers is no different: I loved every page, every line. It's so smart, so funny and so sexy. Nora and Charlie have sizzling chemistry—they even make discussing a contract hot. Readers are going to fall head over heels for these two.”
Beth O’Leary, International bestselling author of The No-Show

"[P]erfect-for-summer rom com."—Parade

“Brimming with swoon-worthy moments, hilarious banter, and lovable characters…”Women's World

“[A] fun and flirty romance”Cosmo

“Book Lovers uses classic romance tropes with purpose and intention, offering readers a satisfying romance unto itself, while also reflecting on why romance novels are so enticing to begin with…a smart, charming and dazzling book.”—Shelf Awareness

Library Journal

★ 03/01/2022

Literary agent Nora is tired of always playing the ambitious big-city ice queen whose boyfriends leave her for new lives (and new relationships) in small-town America. That's why, when Nora's sister insists on taking her on a trip to a little town that's straight out of one of her authors' novels, and imposes a list of romance tropes to experience, Nora is doubtful she can find her happily-ever-after. Cue Charlie, an editor and Nora's nemesis from New York, who mysteriously shows up in town and slowly reveals that there's a lot more to him than his surly exterior. Will Nora finally break out of her doomed pattern and find true love? Henry (Beach Read; People We Meet on Vacation) has written another sweet and swoon-worthy novel with plenty of witty dialogue, an evocative setting, and strong characters. VERDICT Truly a book for book lovers and a romance for romance lovers, this novel will delight Henry's fans, as well as readers of smart, sexy, and funny romances with emotional depth and storylines featuring family dynamics.—Migdalia Jimenez

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2022-02-04
A cutthroat literary agent finds herself stuck in a small town with the grumpy editor she despises.

Nora Stephens knows she isn’t anything like the heroines in small-town love stories. She’s not sweet or unassuming, and she definitely doesn’t own a Christmas tree farm or a quaint B&B. With her Peloton obsession, high-powered job at a literary agency, and expensive shoes, she’s the villainous girlfriend who gets dumped when the hero realizes he really wants to leave New York City and embrace the simple life in a small town. But Nora has no interest in slowing down—she embraces the hustle of her life, enjoying the city and spending her time either negotiating for her clients or helping her pregnant sister, Libby. When Libby suggests they take a girls’ trip to Sunshine Falls, a picture-perfect North Carolina town, Nora agrees. Trying to make her sister happy, Nora throws herself into Libby’s checklist of classic small-town experiences. But there’s one brooding, annoying wrench in her plans: editor Charlie Lastra. He and Nora met years before when he brusquely rejected one of her books, and now he’s here in Sunshine Falls for some reason, terrorizing her by having the nerve to be both good-looking and funny. As Nora and Charlie get to know each other, she learns that there may be more to him than she suspected. But Nora’s also concerned about her relationship with Libby—they’ve been close all their lives, but now something seems off. Can Nora get her happily-ever-after even if she doesn’t want to ride off into the small-town sunset with a lumberjack? As in People We Meet on Vacation (2021), Henry creates a warm, sparkling romance brimming with laugh-out-loud banter, lovable characters, and tons of sexual tension. High-maintenance, high-strung Nora shows that uptight, goal-oriented women deserve romance, too, and Charlie is a perfect grumpy hero with a secret soft side. What’s more, Henry never falls into the easy trap of vilifying either small towns or big cities, allowing her characters the room to follow their dreams, wherever they lead. And while the romance between Nora and Charlie is swoonworthy and steam-filled, it’s Nora’s relationship with Libby that really brings the tears.

A heartfelt and hilarious read about books, sisters, and writing your own love story.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940176168440
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 05/03/2022
Edition description: Unabridged

Read an Excerpt

PROLOGUE

When books are your life—or in my case, your job— ­you get pretty good at guessing where a story is going. The tropes, the archetypes, the common plot twists all start to organize themselves into a catalogue inside your brain, divided by category and genre.

The husband is the killer.

The nerd gets a makeover, and without her glasses, she’s smoking hot.

The guy gets the girl—or the other girl does.

Someone explains a complicated scientific concept, and someone else says, “Um, in English, please?”

The details may change from book to book, but there’s nothing truly new under the sun.

Take, for example, the small-­town love story.

The kind where a cynical hotshot from New York or Los Angeles gets shipped off to Smalltown, USA—to, like, run a family-­owned Christmas tree farm out of business to make room for a soulless corporation.

But while said City Person is in town, things don’t go to plan. Because, of course, the Christmas tree farm—or bakery, or whatever the hero’s been sent to destroy—is owned and operated by someone ridiculously attractive and suitably available for wooing.

Back in the city, the lead has a romantic partner. Someone ruthless who encourages him to do what he’s set out to do and ruin some lives in exchange for that big promotion. He fields calls from her, during which she interrupts him, barking heartless advice from the seat of her Peloton bike.

You can tell she’s evil because her hair is an unnatural blond, slicked back à la Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, and also, she hates Christmas decorations.

As the hero spends more time with the charming baker/seamstress/tree farm . . . person, things change for him. He learns the true meaning of life!

He returns home, transformed by the love of a good woman. There he asks his ice-­queen girlfriend to take a walk with him. She gapes, says something like, In these Manolos?

It will be fun, he tells her. On the walk, he might ask her to look up at the stars.

She snaps, You know I can’t look up right now! I just got Botox!

And then he realizes: he can’t go back to his old life. He doesn’t want to! He ends his cold, unsatisfying relationship and proposes to his new sweetheart. (Who needs dating?)

At this point, you find yourself screaming at the book, You don’t even know her! What’s her middle name, bitch? From across the room, your sister, Libby, hushes you, throws popcorn at your head without lifting her gaze from her own crinkly-­covered library book.

And that’s why I’m running late to this lunch meeting.

Because that’s my life. The trope that governs my days. The archetype over which my details are superimposed.

I’m the city person. Not the one who meets the hot farmer. The other one.

The uptight, manicured literary agent, reading manuscripts from atop her Peloton while a serene beach scene screen saver drifts, unnoticed, across her computer screen.

I’m the one who gets dumped.

I’ve read this story, and lived it, enough to know it’s happening again right now, as I’m weaving through late-­afternoon foot traffic in Midtown, my phone clutched to my ear.

He hasn’t said it yet, but the hairs on the back of my neck are rising, the pit opening in my stomach as he maneuvers the conversation toward a cartoon-­style drop off a cliff.

Grant was only supposed to be in Texas for two weeks, just long enough to help close a deal between his company and the boutique hotel they were trying to acquire outside San Antonio. Having already experienced two post–­work trip breakups, I reacted to the news of his trip as if he’d announced he’d joined the navy and was shipping out in the morning.

Libby tried to convince me I was overreacting, but I wasn’t surprised when Grant missed our nightly phone call three times in a row, or when he cut two others short. I knew how this ended.

And then, three days ago, hours before his return flight, it happened.

A force majeure intervened to keep him in San Antonio longer than planned. His appendix burst.

Theoretically, I could’ve booked a flight right then, met him at the hospital. But I was in the middle of a huge sale and needed to be glued to my phone with stable Wi-­Fi access. My client was counting on me. This was a life-­changing chance for her. And besides, Grant pointed out that an appendectomy was a routine procedure. His exact words were “no big deal.”

So I stayed, and deep down, I knew I was releasing Grant to the small-­town-­romance-­novel gods to do with what they do best.

Now, three days later, as I’m practically sprinting to lunch in my Good Luck heels, my knuckles white against my phone, the reverberation of the nail in my relationship’s coffin rattles through me in the form of Grant’s voice.

“Say that again.” I mean to say it as a question. It comes out as an order.

Grant sighs. “I’m not coming back, Nora. Things have changed for me this past week.” He chuckles. “I’ve changed.”

A thud goes through my cold, city-­person heart. “Is she a baker?” I ask.

He’s silent for a beat. “What?”

“Is she a baker?” I say, like that’s a perfectly reasonable first question to ask when your boyfriend dumps you over the phone. “The woman you’re leaving me for.”

After a brief silence, he gives in: “She’s the daughter of the couple who own the hotel. They’ve decided not to sell. I’m going to stay on, help them run it.”

I can’t help it: I laugh. That’s always been my reaction to bad news. It’s probably how I won the role of Evil Villainess in my own life, but what else am I supposed to do? Melt into a crying puddle on this packed sidewalk? What good would that do?

I stop outside the restaurant and gently knead at my eyes. “So, to be clear,” I say, “you’re giving up your amazing job, your amazing apartment, and me, and you’re moving to Texas. To be with someone whose career can best be described as the daughter of the couple who own the hotel?”

“There’s more important things in life than money and a fancy career, Nora,” he spits.

I laugh again. “I can’t tell if you think you’re being serious.”

Grant is the son of a billionaire hotel mogul. “Raised with a silver spoon” doesn’t even begin to cover it. He probably had gold-­leaf toilet paper.

For Grant, college was a formality. Internships were a formality. Hell, wearing pants was a formality! He got his job through sheer nepotism.

Which is precisely what makes his last comment so rich, both figuratively and literally.

I must say this last part aloud, because he demands, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

I peer through the window of the restaurant, then check the time on my phone. I’m late—I’m never late. Not the first impression I was aiming for.

“Grant, you’re a thirty-­four-­year-­old heir. For most of us, our jobs are tied directly to our ability to eat.”

“See?” he says. “This is the kind of worldview I’m done with. You can be so cold sometimes, Nora. Chastity and I want to—”

It’s not intentional—I’m not trying to be cutting—when I cackle out her name. It’s just that, when hilariously bad things happen, I leave my body. I watch them happen from outside myself and think, Really? This is what the universe has chosen to do? A bit on the nose, isn’t it?

In this case, it’s chosen to guide my boyfriend into the arms of a woman named after the ability to keep a hymen intact. I mean, it is funny.

He huffs on the other end of the line. “These people are good people, Nora. They’re salt of the earth. That’s the kind of person I want to be. Look, Nora, don’t act upset—”

“Who’s acting?”

“You’ve never needed me—”

“Of course I don’t!” I’ve worked hard to build a life that’s my own, that no one else could pull a plug on to send me swirling down a cosmic drain.

“You’ve never even stayed over at my place—” he says.

“My mattress is objectively better!” I researched it for nine and a half months before buying it. Of course, that’s also pretty much how I date, and still, I end up here.

“—so don’t pretend you’re heartbroken,” Grant says. “I’m not sure you’re even capable of being heartbroken.”

Again, I have to laugh.

Because on this, he’s wrong. It’s just that once you’ve had your heart truly shattered, a phone call like this is nothing. A heart-­twinge, maybe a murmur. Certainly not a break.

Grant’s on a roll now: “I’ve never even seen you cry.”

You’re welcome, I consider saying. How many times had Mom told us, laughing through her tears, that her latest beau had told her she was too emotional?

That’s the thing about women. There’s no good way to be one. Wear your emotions on your sleeve and you’re hysterical. Keep them tucked away where your boyfriend doesn’t have to tend to them and you’re a heartless bitch.

“I’ve got to go, Grant,” I say.

“Of course you do,” he replies.

Apparently my following through with prior commitments is just more proof that I am a frigid, evil robot who sleeps in a bed of hundred-­dollar bills and raw diamonds. (If only.)

I hang up without a goodbye and tuck myself beneath the restaurant’s awning. As I take a steadying breath, I wait to see if the tears will come. They don’t. They never do. I’m okay with that.

I have a job to do, and unlike Grant, I’m going to do it, for myself and everyone else at Nguyen Literary Agency.

I smooth my hair, square my shoulders, and head inside, the blast of air-­conditioning scrubbing goose bumps over my arms.

It’s late in the day for lunch, so the crowd is thin, and I spot Charlie Lastra near the back, dressed in all black like publishing’s own metropolitan vampire.

We’ve never met in person, but I double-­checked the Publishers Weekly announcement about his promotion to executive editor at Wharton House Books and committed his photograph to memory: the stern, dark brows; the light brown eyes; the slight crease in his chin beneath his full lips. He has the kind of dark mole on one cheek that, if he were a woman, would definitely be considered a beauty mark.

He can’t be much past his midthirties, with the kind of face you might describe as boyish, if not for how tired he looks and the gray that thoroughly peppers his black hair.

Also, he’s scowling. Or pouting. His mouth is pouting. His forehead is scowling. Powling.

He glances at his watch.

Not a good sign. Right before I left the office, my boss, Amy, warned me Charlie is famously testy, but I wasn’t worried. I’m always punctual.

Except when I’m getting dumped over the phone. Then I’m six and a half minutes late, apparently.

“Hi!” I stick out my palm to shake his as I approach. “Nora Stephens. So nice to meet you in person, finally.”

He stands, his chair scraping over the floor. His black clothes, dark features, and general demeanor have the approximate effect on the room of a black hole, sucking all the light out of it and swallowing it entirely.

Most people wear black as a form of lazy professionalism, but he makes it look like a capital-­c Choice, the combination of his relaxed merino sweater, trousers, and brogues giving him the air of a celebrity caught on the street by a paparazzo. I catch myself calculating how many American dollars he’s wearing. Libby calls it my “disturbing middle-­class party trick,” but really it’s just that I love pretty things and often online window-­shop to self-­soothe after a stressful day.

I’d put Charlie’s outfit at somewhere between eight hundred and a thousand. Right in the range of mine, frankly, though everything I’m wearing except my shoes was purchased secondhand.

He examines my outstretched palm for two long seconds before shaking it. “You’re late.” He sits without bothering to meet my gaze.

Is there anything worse than a man who thinks he’s above the laws of the social contract just because he was born with a decent face and a fat wallet? Grant has burned through my daily tolerance for self-­important asshats. Still, I have to play this game, for my authors’ sakes.

“I know,” I say, beaming apologetically but not actually apologizing. “Thank you for waiting for me. My train got stopped on the tracks. You know how it is.”

His eyes lift to mine. They look darker now, so dark I’m not sure there are irises around those pupils. His expression says he does not know how it is, re: trains stopping on the tracks for reasons both grisly and mundane.

Probably, he doesn’t take the subway.

Probably, he goes everywhere in a shiny black limo, or a Gothic carriage pulled by a team of Clydesdales.

I shuck off my blazer (herringbone, Isabel Marant) and take the seat across from him. “Have you ordered?”

“No,” he says. Nothing else.

My hopes sink lower.

We’d scheduled this get-­to-­know-­you lunch weeks ago. But last Friday, I’d sent him a new manuscript from one of my oldest clients, Dusty Fielding. Now I’m second-­guessing whether I could subject one of my authors to this man.

I pick up my menu. “They have a goat cheese salad that’s phenomenal.”

Charlie closes his menu and regards me. “Before we go any further,” he says, thick black brows furrowing, his voice low and innately hoarse, “I should just tell you, I found Fielding’s new book unreadable.”

My jaw drops. I’m not sure what to say. For one thing, I hadn’t planned on bringing the book up. If Charlie wanted to reject it, he could’ve just done so in an email. And without using the word unreadable.

But even aside from that, any decent person would at least wait until there was some bread on the table before throwing out insults.

I close my own menu and fold my hands on the table. “I think it’s her best yet.”

Dusty’s already published three others, each of them fantastic, though none sold well. Her last publisher wasn’t willing to take another chance on her, so she’s back in the water, looking for a new home for her next novel.

And okay, maybe it’s not my favorite of hers, but it has immense commercial appeal. With the right editor, I know what this book can be.

Charlie sits back, the heavy, discerning quality of his gaze sending a prickling down my backbone. It feels like he’s looking right through me, past the shiny politeness to the jagged edges underneath. His look says, Wipe that frozen smile off your face. You’re not that nice.

He turns his water glass in place. “Her best is The Glory of Small Things,” he says, like three seconds of eye contact was enough to read my innermost thoughts and he knows he’s speaking for both of us.

Frankly, Glory was one of my favorite books in the last decade, but that doesn’t make this one chopped liver.

I say, “This book is every bit as good. It’s just different—less subdued, maybe, but that gives it a cinematic edge.”

“Less subdued?” Charlie squints. At least the golden brown has seeped back into his eyes so I feel less like they’re going to burn holes in me. “That’s like saying Charles Manson was a lifestyle guru. It might be true, but it’s hardly the point. This book feels like someone watched that Sarah McLachlan commercial for animal cruelty prevention and thought, But what if all the puppies died on camera?”

An irritable laugh lurches out of me. “Fine. It’s not your cup of tea. But maybe it would be helpful,” I fume, “if you told me what you liked about the book. Then I know what to send you in the future.”

Liar, my brain says. You’re not sending him more books.

Liar, Charlie’s unsettling, owlish eyes say. You’re not sending me more books.

This lunch—this potential working relationship—is dead in the water.

Charlie doesn’t want to work with me, and I don’t want to work with him, but I guess he hasn’t entirely abandoned the social contract, because he considers my question.

“It’s overly sentimental for my taste,” he says eventually. “And the cast is caricatured—”

“Quirky,” I disagree. “We could scale them back, but it’s a large cast—their quirks help distinguish them.”

“And the setting—”

“What’s wrong with the setting?” The setting in Once in a Lifetime sells the whole book. “Sunshine Falls is charming.”

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