2021 is a good year for book releases, honestly. I’ve found myself looking forward to so many books being released this year, so even though I said I wasn’t going to read as many new releases this year, I’ve mostly been failing at the follow through. Today’s post has me especially excited because it’s an opportunity to review three of the books I’ve been most excited about! Those books are People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry, which I believe is out now, How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole, out on May 25, and Hang the Moon by Alexandria Bellefleur, also out May 25. I got People We Meet on Vacation early through my Book of the Month subscription, but the other two were e-ARCs from Avon via Netgalley and I’m so grateful. So let’s talk about these books, shall we?
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
It’s no secret that I loved Beach Read last year, so to say that I was looking forward to Henry’s adult romance follow up is a serious understatement. I am incredibly delighted to inform you that it did not disappoint. I spent entirely too long in this one though comparing the two, so I’m really keen to go back and re-read it. But, what I can tell you is this, People We Meet on Vacation is very different than Beach Read. It stands so entirely on its own, separate and apart from Beach Read and I’m grateful it exists.
So what is People We Meet on Vacation? It’s an estranged friends to lovers romance told in alternate past/present storylines, taking us one summer at a time through the past to the present and in the present, on the vacation to hopefully renew their friendship. It is a book about millennial angst and the struggles of finding oneself over and over again. It is a slow burn of epic proportions. It delivers in the friends to lovers aspect so incredibly well.
People We Meet on Vacation is one of those romances I still don’t totally have the words for. I devoured it and loved it in every way. Would definitely recommend.
How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole
Despite not loving How to Catch a Queen, I was still so looking forward to How to Find a Princess for several reasons. First, Alyssa Cole is amazing. Second, I really loved our introduction to Bez in Shanti’s book. Third, a f/f Anastasia retelling? Sign me up! But, unfortunately, my excitement didn’t carry through the actual reading of this book and I’m instead having to write this review from a place of disappointment. Obviously, Alyssa Cole is incredibly talented and this book is as well written as always. What didn’t land for me was actually the thing that I think Alyssa is the best at, the characters. (Or the romance. Or the pacing in general.)
For over half of this book, I did not have a good grasp on who Bez is. I am still unsure if Bez confused me because her patterns and ways of thinking are unfamiliar to my own brand of neuro-divergence or if she just really didn’t make sense as a person. I am inclined to believe that it’s the former and this is a case of me not understanding something fundamental about a character. This is definitely possible. I’m also a rule follower so there were things about who Bez is as a person that just did not compute for me at all.
Makeda, on the other hand, is a people pleaser to the extent that she winds up putting herself at risk for emotional harm. She goes overboard. She doesn’t have great boundaries. Or boundaries really at all. So when she loses her job to a person who is just objectively worse at the job than Makeda is, she goes back to her grandmother’s B&B and throws herself sullenly into that. When Bez sort of crashes into her life, things take a bit of a turn, bringing up a lot of bad memories from her past.
This book is interesting in that it is such a slow burn and such a slow moving book and then quite a bit of action thrown in at the end. It didn’t really feel like romance novel pacing and while that’s a good thing, to change things up sometimes, it just didn’t work for me here. I found myself reading just a few pages at a time and then getting distracted. I wanted to do almost anything else besides finish it.
So even though there was a lot to love in the writing (for real, the way Alyssa Cole can express how being numb is not the same thing as moving past something is genius), this book just didn’t work for me as a whole. I am, though, once again, really looking forward to the next book in the series because I loved the person I think is the next romantic lead in this one!
Hang the Moon by Alexandria Bellefleur
Honestly, I wasn’t sure that I could like Hang the Moon more than Written in the Stars, but somehow?? I think I managed. First of all, one of my favorite not necessarily integral to the story in Written in the Stars things remained a part of Hang the Moon and I loved getting to see more of those astrology elements! They’re so fun. But also, this really worked for me because Annie and Brendon are just… precious?
Hang the Moon dials the Seattle location up to an 11 and I was here for it. Like, looked at booking a flight to Seattle into it. It has rom com references, but in ways that felt natural and not forced. It’s got Brenden??? I mean, I really don’t know what to tell you about this book beyond it’s soft and sweet and sexy and exactly what I needed to read.
I guess I could tell you what the book is about. Essentially, Annie flies to Seattle to surprise her best friend, Darcy, with a visit. They haven’t seen one another in over a year. After the hellscape of 2020, I’m sure a lot of us can really relate to that. Unfortunately, Darcy is in Vancouver on a vacation with Elle (!!!) for the weekend, so Brenden gets roped in to letting Annie into Darcy’s apartment and also playing host for a few days. Brenden was crushing on Annie hard in the past, like, when he was in high school, and the chemistry is still there.
Honestly, I really did love so much of what this book was about. The way it brought alive past memories for Brenden and Annie without flashbacks, the way the friendship between Darcy and Annie is so much a part of this book without taking away from the romance, and the way Annie is really having to figure out the difference between being safe and being happy and what true happiness is worth. I just really, really loved this book. It was a joy to read and I cannot wait for Margot’s book!!
Have you read any of these books yet? If so, what did you think? If not, are you looking forward to any of them? Let me know!