ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction

Theme: Bookish Women Afraid to Love

The term “bookish” is becoming increasingly popular these days. It refers to people whose lives revolve around books, their characters, the authors, etc. Sometimes the lines between characters and real romantic interests blur to the point that the reader creates impossibly high expectations. (Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. Darcy and Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester are particular favorites of the bookish.) Between those high expectations and past heartbreak, the bookish can get jaded when it comes to love–“the real thing.”

Here are three bookish women characters who are wary, but lonely. Their hopes are quickly eclipsed by doubt. All it takes is the right person to help them emerge from the pages and step into the real world. One is writing a dissertation using true crime examples. One is a ghost writer coming off of a bad breakup. One is a librarian who was left at the altar. Knowledge of classics and popular modern authors definitely make plots like these more enjoyable.

But…sometimes the stars do not align. That was the case with Love in the Time of Serial Killers, by Alicia Thompson, which will be released on August 1st. My main criticism is the main character, Phoebe Walsh, who is one of the most unlikable protagonists I’ve ever met. Phoebe has immersed herself in true crime stories so much that she even suspects her mild-mannered neighbor, Sam, of being a murderer. It’s a cute premise, except that she’s rarely nice to him–bordering on terrible. So, why does he show any interest? Frankly, I have no idea. Best to skip this one. 3/10 Stars

The Dead Romantics, by Ashley Poston, just released on June 28 and has been on my radar for a while. Happily, I was not disappointed. It’s a delight, and my favorite of these three novels. Florence Day is a ghost writer for famous romance author, Anne Nichols, whose age and reclusive lifestyle have rendered her unable to produce any more books. Florence poses as Anne’s assistant, the one who negotiates and meets new editor, Benji Andor. And, oh, one more tiny thing…Florence can see ghosts. This all comes to a head when Benji appears the next day as his ghostly self. This story has “mild romantic steam” but was extremely enjoyable, with wonderful characters and a superb ending. 9/10 Stars

Authentically, Izzy, by Pepper Basham, releases on November 15th. This book is for a certain audience who likes super clean plots with a combination of epistolary and narrative. Isabelle “Izzy” Edgewood is a quiet librarian living in Virginia. Raised by an aunt and uncle, she stays in close contact with her cousins Josephine, Penelope, and Luke. When the meddling Josephine creates an online dating profile for Izzy, she finds a kindred book-loving spirit who lives several thousand miles away. The first half is mostly emails between Izzy and her cousins. This section is fun, but unnecessarily long. The second half is where a romance blossoms, written in narrative form, with a few emails. I really wanted to like this book more than I did. It has great potential. Unfortunately, it was a cumbersome, sometimes frustrating read. 8/10 Stars

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