Monday, June 24, 2024

In a Nutshell Reviews

A Novel Love Story
 by Ashley Poston
Published by Berkley on June 25, 2024
Age/Genres: Adult, Romance, Enchanted Realism

A professor of literature finds herself caught up in a work of fiction… literally.

Eileen Merriweather loves to get lost in a good happily-ever-after. The fictional kind, anyway. Because at least imaginary men don’t leave you at the altar. She feels safe in a book. At home. Which might be why she’s so set on going to her annual book club retreat this year—she needs good friends, cheap wine, and grand romantic gestures—no matter what.

But when her car unexpectedly breaks down on the way, she finds herself stranded in a quaint town that feels like it’s right out of a novel…

Because it is.

This place can’t be real, and yet… she’s here, in Eloraton, the town of her favorite romance series, where the candy store’s honey taffy is always sweet, the local bar’s burgers are always a little burnt, and rain always comes in the afternoon. It feels like home. It’s perfect—and perfectly frozen, trapped in the late author’s last unfinished story.

Elsy is sure that’s why she must be here: to help bring the town to its storybook ending.

Except there is a character in Eloraton that she can’t place—a grumpy bookstore owner with mint-green eyes, an irritatingly sexy mouth and impeccable taste in novels. And he does not want her finishing this book.

Which is a problem because Elsy is beginning to think the town’s happily-ever-after might just be intertwined with her own.

After being dumped one week before her wedding, Elsy found comfort in the form of the Super Smutty Book Club and the Quixotic Falls book series. This year, everyone was too busy for book club cabin week, and Elsy elected to go alone. She needed the escape, but she would have never predicted that her road trip would end in her favorite fictional town.

"There was only one road in and one road out of Eloraton, New York, and most people never took it. But I had. "

I was so captivated by the premise of this story start. I love the idea of a reader jumping in to a beloved fictional world. The first thing that popped into my head was the movie Plesantville. Like in that film, there were quite a few parallels to how Elsy's presence affects life in Eloraton.

But the big question was why was Elsy able to enter this fictional world? I think it was an important stop on her personal journey. Elsy had been stuck since her breakup. She had been doing the bare minimum of living while continuously escaping to the pages of a book. Though we all enjoy that sort of escape, now and then, Elsy was using it to avoid coming to terms with her broken engagement and why her relationship failed. While in Eloraton, Elsy reflected a lot on the relationship pains those book characters were experiencing and it opened her eyes to understanding how her own relationship failed.

She also met a grumpy book seller who jump started her heart, but we all know you can't really date book boyfriends, or can you? I loved the mystery that surrounded Anders, and let me tell, it took a long time to uncover his whole story, but it was worth the wait. There was definitely a nice slow burn romance between those two, but I felt it was secondary to Elsy's personal journey.

One thing that was interesting was the exploration of the relationship between authors, readers, and their stories. The Quixotic Falls series was unfortunately unfinished due to the author's untimely death. A fun part of this book was Elsy trying to give the characters their endings, and it was wrapped in the idea that an author's stories live on in their readers, how readers can continue those stories after "the end", and how time and stories change readers. It was definitely food for thought.

A Novel Love Story was another delight book from Poston. I loved the concept, the characters, the CAMEOS form some Dead Romantics - just everything! There were all these little details that formed a full picture once I learned the whole story and it just struck me as brilliant. I throughly enjoyed accompanying Elsy on this trip which was filled with fun and feels and left me with a happy heart.

The Year of What If
 by Phaedra Patrick
Published by Park Row on June 25, 2024
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction

From bestselling author Phaedra Patrick comes a fun, heartfelt novel about a bride-to-be, a fortune teller, way too many ex-boyfriends, and the whirlwind European adventure that changes everything.

Can the future be rewritten?

On the verge of her second marriage, Carla Carter knows she’s found the one. She and her fiancé, Tom, met through Logical Love, a dating agency she founded for the pragmatically minded, and she’s confident that, together, they'll dispel an old family curse claiming Carter women are unlucky in love.

But when Carla’s superstitious family insists she visit a fortune teller before her big day, the tarot reveals that the love of Carla’s life is not Tom, but one of the men she dated on a gap year—twenty-one years ago. With her wedding just weeks away, Carla sets off across Europe, tracking down her exes from that unforgettable year to prove the fortune wrong. From Spain to Portugal, Italy to France, will one of them be her perfect match? And could a face from Carla's past help her rewrite her entire family history forever?

Following her divorce, Carla was determined to love based on logic and not emotion. As she was set to marry again, she had her fortune read and was advised that she met someone very critical to her future happiness during her gap year over two decades ago. This motivated Carla to revisit her gap year exes, but would this trip down memory lane ruin her chances of finding her happily ever after?

I will never hesitate to pick up a Phaedra Patrick book because I know I am in store for a fabulous, feel-good story. Once again, Patrick crafted a tale that captured my attention from page one and presented me with several surprises along the way. I was intrigued and cared so deeply for everyone involved as I crossed my fingers for Carla and her family to find the happiness they deserved.

The focus on family was something that emerged early in the book. This family of strong women were quite close. Maybe they bonded over the curse and losses? Who knows, but I loved their dynamic and the way they never failed to catch each other when they fell. It was such a pleasure spending time with them as they experienced their highs and lows.

The bulk of this tale was spent retracing Carla's gap year through Europe. Patrick transported me to some beautiful places as Carla faced her past. It was interesting the way she began to see her past romantic situations in a different light, getting the necessary closure, discovering a lot about herself and how the curse had been influencing her romantic relationships.

During her travels, Carla also connected with people from her mother's past. Being so young at the time of her mother's death, there were a lot of gaps to fill, and it was so lovely that one of her mother's friends was able to do that for Carla.

But, this was a story about what-ifs, and Carla spent her time pondering many of them. I appreciated the various ways this theme was explored and really pleased with how the time and reflection helped Carla grow. I will admit that I thought the story would go in a different way, but I wouldn't say I was disappointed.

In the end, Patrick had the entire family heading in the right direction. I was happy and hopeful for them as they embraced and moved towards a brighter future.


What book would you want to jump into?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. Glad to see that Poston delivered another winner for you. The Patrick book seems like it delivered a great what-could-have-been story. I love the strong family connections - that's always a bonus for me.

    1. Phaedra Patrick's books are all so wonderful! I can't get enough of them.

  2. I really enjoyed A Novel Love Story too. The Seven Year Slip is still my favorite, but she is consistently an excellent story teller.

    1. I loved Slip, but I think Dead Romantics and Geekerella edge it out.

  3. I've been so mixed on Poston's book, but I really do like the sound of this one - so unique!

    1. I have had good luck with both her YA and adult books. The concept was really fun for this one.

  4. Well I would love to jump into my favorite fictional world!

    1. I was always jealous when they did that in Mary Poppins

  5. My hold on Poston's book just came through. Can't wait to read it!!!

  6. A Novel Love Story sounds like it is just whimsical enough with the fictional world to make the story fun. I enjoyed The Seven Year Slip and the magical realism in Poston's books. I really need to read another Phaedra Patrick book. It has been a long time. I have to read more about my European Adventure. 🤣🤣 Great reviews, Sam.

    1. Patrick's books are all so good. I have adored them all. Highly recommend.