Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement.

a novel love storyEileen Merriweather love a good romance novel. They never let her down like real-life relationships. The highlight of her year is her book group’s annual retreat, where they gather in a remote cabin to read and talk about books all week long. This year, Eileen’s the only one going. Determined to make the most of it, she sets off by herself in her ancient car, only to break down in a sleepy town. A town that feels eerily familiar to her. It’s Eloraton, the setting of her favourite romance series. Only problem is, Eloraton isn’t real.

I loved the concept behind A Novel Love Story, but I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as The Dead Romantics or The Seven Year Slip.

My favourite part was the graveyard of deleted scenes. That’s the kind of meta I want in a story about visiting a fictional book world. There are other glimpses too, like Four Shadow Street, and the fact it always rains every day, giving them the perfect opportunity for kisses in it. I thought the haunted toilet storyline was fun too.

The man was made with tweed and argyle, and sewn together with an Oxford comma.

Eileen is more interested in meddling in the lives of the characters she thinks she knows than finding romance. It’s like an extreme case of parasocial interaction; she had spent so much time reading about them, knowing their inner thoughts, that she incorrectly acts like they’re friends. In reality, she is a busybody stranger who is due to leave town any day. But of course, these characters aren’t bound by the laws of reality, so no one is annoyed for too long.

Honestly if this was fan-fiction for books I’d read, it might have worked better. Instead we are dumped into this word that Eileen already knows so well. She tells us the characters’ backstories in snippets, and we’re expected to care about them the way she does. Perhaps if I read more small-town romances, I would’ve seen the well-worn tropes between the lines.

Sometimes a romance sparkles so much that the surrounding story doesn’t matter, but I didn’t feel the chemistry between Eileen and and Anders. And neither did they for most of the book. Eileen gets an idea that he’s a hero, just waiting for his love interest, and she’s not interested in being that. I just wanted Eileen to leave Eloraton and stop interfering!

He was a would-be hero walking around exuding bookish sexiness with no heroine to use it on.

I usually promptly forget what colour eyes a character has, but Ashley really wants us to know Anders’ eyes are minty. I don’t know if Americans have a different idea of what mint green is, but in my mind it is not an eye-colour. It’s more like a shade you might paint your bathroom in. Plus, every time she wrote “minty eyes” I kept thinking of the Hitcher from The Mighty Boosh who had an actual polo mint for an eye.

A Novel Love Story is published by HQ and will be available in paperback, ebook and audiobook editions from 25th June 2024. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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