Hannah Shepard has a sensible, comfortable life. She has her two cats and an apartment with just the right decorative touches. She’s has worked hard to make her bookstore, A Likely Story, somewhere her customers can find their perfect literary match. Yet this year business has been especially slow. Her employees are counting on her and she has bills to pay. If things keep going as they are, she’s not sure how much longer she’ll be able to stay open. She knows she needs a minor miracle to turn things around.
Then world-famous romance author Parker Bristow adds her store as a stop on her book-signing tour. It seems like a wish come true. Hannah considers romance novels to be “hyperbolic” and prefers “serious” books, but she can’t deny their popularity.
Yet Parker Bristow isn’t who Hannah expects her to be. The rich media darling is witty, disarmingly humble and passionate. From the first, their connection is electric and undeniable. When they have a one-night stand, Hannah knows that’s the most she can hope for. After all, the kind of love people read about in romance novels doesn’t really exist…does it?
As a narrator, Hannah is engaging, describing her world in humorous, vibrant ways. The affection she has for her store and the people around her comes across effortlessly. It’s easy to imagine sitting in her bookstore, hanging out and having a cup of coffee. Her reactions are authentic, from being surprised Parker is interested in her to the insecurities raised by dating someone famous.
I did struggle with the description of her practicality. While it is stressed by her inner monologue and her friend’s comments, it isn’t consistently reflected in her actions.
Parker is harder to get a sense of. There’s a scene late in the book where she describes her background. I wish it had happened sooner as it provided a lot of insight.
The Writing Style
This story is told in first person, entirely from Hannah’s perspective. There’s a quirkiness in the narration style that makes the entire novel lively and easy to read.
The trope of an all-encompassing love has been around since cavewomen painted romance novels on cave walls. The book asks you to open your mind to the possibility that a heart that’s perfect for yours might actually be out there. This might sound corny to the jaded. But the case for believing is constructed with sincerity and eloquence.
I especially admired that Hannah and Parker had to earn their relationship through various ups and downs. Finding “the one” might be based on destiny or luck, Melissa Brayden argues, but holding on afterward requires hard work and patience.
There were times I felt like the larger point the book was trying to make overshadowed the main characters. This diluted their relationship during the earlier stages of their romance.
Additionally, there is a physical assault on Hannah that could be triggering to some readers.
The book is dedicated to romantics and, given the premise, it’s easy to see why. It’s also encouragement, a friend reminding you that if you can find the courage to hold on, love can last.
Excerpt from Back to September by Melissa Brayden
“You know damned well I like what you’re wearing.” I sipped my coffee.
“I damn well do know,” she said, and then walked back to the bedroom to finish getting ready. I made a point to stay out of there and give Parker her space, but my mind certainly went to town on the most amazing fantasy of me coming up behind her in the bathroom, unfastening that towel, pressing my lips to her shoulder, then her neck, while my hands explored the rest of her. She could consume all the damn orange juice she wanted, as far as I was concerned. I felt more alive than I’d felt since…well, the day we’d spent together in September. Everything since then had paled in comparison. I’d been chasing that feeling, addictive as it had been, trying to get back there, yet knowing Parker was the only route.
Now here we were, and I just wanted to leap with my eyes closed. So unlike me, yet so compelling. I’d tapped my cheek and whispered to myself, “Go slow. Just go slow.”
“What do you fun-loving folks have planned for this Monday evening?” Luna grabbed a rag and some Windex and headed in the direction of the interior windows.
“Um…” I looked to Parker, as we had made no definite plans.
“I’m taking her to a fancy dinner,” Parker said. “She might protest because she’s practical, and it’s what she does.”
Luna nodded. “Hannah McSanta is very practical.”
“Who’s practical?” Bo asked from the door in her business suit, which meant another afternoon in court. “Hannah, right?”
I balked. “I feel like I have a reputation.”
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Bits and Bobs
ISBN number: 9781635555776
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Melissa Brayden Online
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Note: I received a free review copy of Back to September by Melissa Brayden. No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site.