RogerBW's Blog

Book Lovers, Emily Henry 07 October 2022

2022 romance. Nora Stephens is the other woman, the city-living partner who gets dumped after the man in her life has a life-changing rural experience. Until her sister takes her on a rural experience of her own…

I love the conceit here. Romances, and especially romantic comedies, often start with one or the other partner in a bad relationship which they'll have to get out of, and that person is usually dropped from the narrative, or given parody villain traits so that the reader doesn't mind that they're being left alone. But for them to work as credible opposition, they have to be people too, and one wonders what they're like when they aren't being The Future Ex.

And that's fine, but there are enough other complications in Nora's life that this doesn't seem quite the full answer to that question that it could have been. Nora has a sister, and for years since the death of their mother has been The Responsible One; but that isn't a sustainable relationship in the long term, and it's good to see that acknowledged and resolved. She has a lot of history that affects her in the present, and so does her potential partner Charlie. In making these people specific and individual, I think Henry gave up the opportunity to write the definitive book about the Other Woman archetype… but I find I don't mind.

There's banter; more to the point, there's banter that makes sense for these people in these situation, rather than being generically snappy dialogue. There are wants that are unacknowledged until they suddenly break open and affect everything. There's communication, and a welcome lack of Big Misunderstandings that would be trivially solved if only the principals would talk. (Though there's a bit of that in another relationship.) There are parents who are good but not perfect, who have more to them than simply to be the loving example of what the principals' relationship could become.

Too many stories see someone who's particular about they way they live their life as someone who needs to "relax", to get their horizons broadened by a manic pixie dream girl, etc.. I'm sure some of them do. But actually a lot of grown-ups have in fact established their preferences, and have good reasons for them, and don't do any harm by them, and I'm very pleased to see this book acknowledging that.

There are plenty of small niggles, and I didn't quite end up loving it, but this was still highly enjoyable and I'd recommend it with only slight caution.

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