People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
During a recent Twitter DM thread with an old friend and published romance author, I asked if the fact that I not only read but enjoyed both of Emily Henry’s “romance” novels meant that I had to turn in my “guy card.” She assured me that it was OK to enjoy any writer and genre I wanted.
Reassured, I’m here to report that I really enjoyed Emily Henry’s latest novel People You Meet on Vacation. Poppy and Alex became accidental best friends following their freshman year of college. Carpooling back to their small town in Ohio, the two bonded over various shared interests and some interesting disconnects. A year or so later, the two made a pact to take a summer vacation together each year.
And so, things went well for the first decade or so as Alex pursued his master’s degree and then began to share his love of literature with unsuspecting English students and Poppy pursued her dream of traveling the world and getting paid to share her experience and advice. Then, there was the infamous summer in Croatia and the two haven’t spoken much for two years.
Now, Poppy is living her dream but finding herself a bit unsatisfied. At the urging of her friend, she texts Alex, and soon the two are making plans for a Palm Springs vacation that bookends with his brother’s wedding. Can these two get their friendship back on track or will this be the last hurrah for these two?
Part of the issue is that Poppy has a wavering attraction to Alex that can waivers between five and fifteen percent of their friendship. And while they’ve both had other relationships during their friendship, it’s easy to get the feeling that something is always holding them back from fully committing to someone that isn’t Poppy or Alex.
And so, the slow boil begins. Henry flashes between the present trip and previous trips to fill in details, allowing readers to make assumptions and then either confirming them or dashing them creatively along the way. The smoldering attraction between these two is obvious from the first few encounters they have, though it’s interesting to see how long and the ways they go about denying it to themselves and each other.
Thankfully, Henry doesn’t make the course of true love run smooth. She stays true to her characters by not having a potential romance be the magical cure for everything going on in Poppy and Alex’s complicated lives. It all helps make the ending of the novel that much more authentic and satisfying.
A satisfying, character-driven romantic drama. A great read anytime you’re in the mood for some quirky escapism.
If I Were You by Lisa Renee Jones
Taking a page from Storage Wars, Sara’s best friend purchases a storage unit full of someone else’s stuff. Including in the unit is an erotic journal that Sara assumes, at first, is her best friend’s. However, when the best friend decides to run off with her new boyfriend, she leaves Sara the task of cleaning out the storage unit and deciding what to do with the stuff inside.
Sara decides that reading the journals Rebecca left behind is the way to help her summer vacation slide by a bit easier — that is until she determines that something bad has happened to Rebecca and all the clues lead back to the art gallery where Rebecca works. Sara, who is a bit of an art enthusiast herself but went into teaching to pay the bills, decides she’ll head on down to the art gallery and start figuring things out.
Before you can blink twice, Sara is caught between two men and slowly swept up into the world of the art gallery. The desire to find Rebecca lasts all of two days, after which Rebecca is melting in the eyes of Chris, the local reclusive artist/jerk who seems to have taken an interest in her.
Look, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that If I Were You is great literature, because, quite frankly, it isn’t. However, it does scratch a certain itch, so far is to goes. It’s got the mystery of Rebecca — which I assume will carry over to the rest of this series, given that we have a cliffhanger ending to the story — and it’s got some pretty racy love scenes between Sara and Chris. Give Lisa Renee Jones credit for crafting some steamy romance scenes without descending into a blow-by-blow account of everything that happens. If you like your trashy romance with a huge helping of trashy, this is probably the book for you. If you want a solid, entertaining romance with a good mystery element, you may want to keep looking elsewhere.
Either way, I have to admit I’m at least intrigued enough to want to read book two. So, I guess this book did something right.
One response to “More Reading Outside My Comfort Zone”
It sound like we had similar feelings about People We Meet – I really liked that there was more to these two characters than “opposites attract” and romance fixing everything. And good for you for going outside the typical gender boundaries in your reading.