Mini-Reviews #22: Happy Place, Meet Me at the Lake & The Happy Ever After Playlist

Mini-Reviews is a blog series where I’ll be sharing mini reviews of the books I’ve been reading lately.  Each post will include 3 books I’ve recently read and will be grouped by genre (though we’re bound to get a hodgepodge post every once in a while!).  Let me know if you’ve read anything I’ve talked about or if you feel inspired to pick anything up after hearing my thoughts!  I also want to note that I’m attempting to do away with half stars this year and I’m going to use the official goodreads rating system which is based on enjoyment level (1 star = didn’t like it, 2 star = it was okay, 3 star = liked it, 4 star = really liked it, 5 star = it was amazing).

Happy Place by Emily Henry – I’ll just say the thing everyone is already thinking- Emily Henry is one of the best romance writers in the genre today and Happy Place is close to the top of my definitive Emily Henry ranking list (I don’t think it’s possible for anything to top Book Lovers!).  When I tell you that I love this book, it doesn’t feel like enough to adequately describe my feelings.  We’re following Harriet and Wyn, the perfect couple since college, until they broke off their engagement six months ago and didn’t tell any of their best friends.  When their group reunites for the annual vacation they’ve been taking together for the past decade on the charming coast of Maine, Harriet and Wyn decide to pretend they’re still together so they don’t ruin everyone else’s trip.  For the first time ever, they’re granted the largest bedroom in the cottage so not only are we blessed with a fake dating situation, but we also get an only one bed trope for good measure.  Happy Place is full of Emily Henry’s trademark witty banter and while I loved experiencing Harriet and Wyn try to deny their still present feelings and electric chemistry for one another, the friendships really took center stage for me in the one.  I’ve never read another book that so perfectly captures how friendships evolve as people grow and age.  It made me both nostalgic for friendships past, appreciative of my current stage in life, and reminded that striking a balance can be challenging but rewarding.  I also could not have loved the setting more. I went to Maine last summer and it was purely delightful to be transported back to such a quaint place.  I may have booked another trip to Maine while reading Happy Place :-).  If you’re looking for a satisfying romance read with substance, I cannot recommend Happy Place enough.  You will not be disappointed!

Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune – Meet Me at the Lake is the follow up to Carley’s Fortunes debut, Every Summer After, which I adored.  It saddens me to say that Carley’s sophomore release didn’t live up to my high expectations, but I will continue reading her books as they’re published.  Meet Me at the Lake follows Fern Brookbanks and Will Baxter in dual timelines.  Fern and Will spent a life-changing twenty four hours together ten years ago with the plan to meet each other at the lake the following year on a specific date and time.  Fern showed up, but Will did not.  Fern has spent the last nine years wondering what if and why Will didn’t make it.  Flash forward to the current timeline where Fern’s mother has recently passed away and Fern has returned to either run or sell her mother’s lakeside resort.  Suddenly, a suit-clad Will Baxter, basically the antithesis of the artist who saved her a decade ago, surfaces at the resort with a suitcase in tow and plans to help.  Fern and Will reconnect and we get alternating chapters from the present and their past.  While I continue to enjoy Carley’s writing, my major issue with Meet Me at the Lake is that I never quite felt the chemistry between Will and Fern in either timeline.  The current timeline attraction was very heavily dependent upon their past interaction but because the foundation wasn’t sufficiently built, I wasn’t buying it.  I was more interested in the resort, Fern’s decision about the course of her life, and her relationship with her mother than anything involving Will.  Fern also had a boyfriend during their day together in the past, so it was also tough to root for them when she was emotionally cheating.  I think it would have been easier to stomach if we hadn’t gotten to know Fern’s ex-Jamie in the present timeline as he’s still around and managing the resort.  Overall, I was disappointed by this one but I don’t think it was a bad book.  It was very middling for me and I would have enjoyed it more had it leaned into the women’s fiction element and abandoned the “romance.”

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez (The Friend Zone #2) – I would like to preface this review by noting that I only have one Abby Jimenez novel left to read from her backlist and I truly don’t know what I’m going to do with myself until she announces and releases her next book.  Abby Jimenez is a romance dynamo with the ability to make me feel (both hurt and happiness) beyond intensely.  Also- spoilers for The Friend Zone so if you haven’t read that one, you may want to wait to read my review.  In The Happy Ever After Playlist, we’re following Sloan (Kristen’s best friend from The Friend Zone), as she navigates life and begins to find herself again after losing her fiance.  When we start off, Sloan is in a dark place until Tucker, an adorable dog jumps into her car through the sunroof and becomes her new best friend.  Sloan tries relentlessly to find Tucker’s owner and it takes a full two weeks before she hears anything from the musician touring in Australia who wants his dog back.  Sloan does what any new dog mom would do and tells him he has to prove he loves Tucker before she’ll agree to give him back.  Jason, Tucker’s owner, and Sloan start up a flirtatious texting and phone call routine and the pair hit it off immediately when they finally meet in person.  Adding to the intrigue, it turns out that Jason is actually a super famous musician that Sloan is a huge fan of, but she hadn’t recognized him since his viral video is entirely done in claymation.  I was hesitant going into this one because of how upset the 75%-ish mark of The Friend Zone made me, but I’m so glad I trusted in Abby.  Not only did Sloan and Jason’s romance completely captivate me, I loved getting to see more of  Kristen and Josh.  I especially loved Kristen’s overprotectiveness toward Sloan in her interactions with Jason and I fell in love with Jason’s family!  If you like celebrity romances and small town, good-hearted love interests, The Happy Ever After Playlist is 100% for you.

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