After a few heavy books, I decided it was time to pick up something light, so I specifically sought out an audiobook to slide into my “Cozy Feel Good Read” category for my 2022 reading challenge. The winning selection was this sweet tale about Savannah Cade, a junior assistant editor at Pennington Publishing, a publishing house in Nashville that specializes in only the most highbrow literature and frowns on anything commercial. Savannah, however, harbors a secret dream of becoming a romance novelist. Her hopes are a bit dashed when her dream publisher tells her that her manuscript is simply not good. It’s promising, but it’s certainly not good. With one more chance to redeem her manuscript and a little more than a month to completely redo it, help comes from an unlikely place. After leaving her disheveled manuscript in a hidden room nestled behind the ARC room at Pennington Publishing, she comes back to find it neatly stacked with notes from a mysterious editor scribbled in the margins.
Over the next few weeks, Savannah and the mystery editor correspond back and forth and she finds herself falling for him. To complicate matters, she also finds herself developing a connection with someone else, her enigmatic and more than slightly intimidating new boss, William Pennington. And there’s even a third guy who we will discuss a bit later who should have been left out, but he’s still there to complicate matters as well. Who will she choose? And will Savannah’s dream of becoming a romance novelist finally come true?
Listen, I didn’t start this book expecting it to set off literary fireworks. I wasn’t in the mood for something complex, and complex it is not. It is the gooey saccharine sweet of a Hallmark movie, which is often why I stray away from the romance genre in general. Savannah is a pretty delightful but also frustratingly obtuse central character. The plot is so predictable I thought Savannah was quite the idiot for not really seeing through it in the first few chapters. William Pennington is the modern-day version of Fitzwilliam Darcy. He’s dashingly handsome but fiercely serious, and Savannah can’t quite stop herself from making a fool of herself in his presence. She finds him simultaneously infuriating and intriguing. In spite of it all, there is a connection there that Savannah can’t deny. I’m not sure how well I saw that connection. It seemed like they mostly talked about work, and I can’t say that would get my loins tingling. To each their own.
Savannah is quirky and naive. She has a dreadful family, especially her sister, Olivia. The two sisters live together in an apartment where they both get to cozy up to Olivia’s fiance who just happens to be Savannah’s ex-boyfriend of eight years. Let me say that again. SAVANNAH’S EX BOYFRIEND LEFT HER FOR HER SISTER AND SAVANNAH NOT ONLY DID NOT MURDER THEM BOTH BUT SHE MOVED IN WITH HER.
I’m sorry, but agreeing to that arrangement makes me want to punch Savannah to wake her the hell up. To make matters worse, Ferris, the ex, continues to bring Savannah flowers and coffee and periodically say sweet things and act possessive when other men are around.
No one is as good-natured and forgiving as Savannah. Nor should they be. Those people we call doormats, and that’s not a compliment. I celebrated when another character delivered her a harsh reality check about just how screwed up the whole situation was. And her hideous parents had reacted as if Savannah should just move on and stand by her sister because the Cades always put family first. Then why wasn’t Olivia expected to put family first and tell Ferris to bugger off??? Instead they give her a tissue and a pat on the back and tell her she has to welcome Ferris back into her life as her future brother-in-law. What a double standard!! How could Savannah ever have a successful and fulfilling relationship if these are the models of behavior she has been given?
That being said, I like a heroine who struggles with confidence. After all, we are all heroines in our own stories, and most of us feel so average as to be mundane. I know I do. Savannah always did next to her perfect sister and her perfect parents, each of which had pages of accomplishments to their name. Thankfully, a lot of modern romance novels of the quirkier variety tend to feature a heroine that resonates with the typical woman. My biggest quibble was with the predictability of the plot. It was so obvious where everything was heading. There was one minor twist at the end, but it was utterly inconsequential and was only thrown in to explain the red herrings that were supposed to convince us we didn’t know what we knew. But oh my, did we know! The mystery editor was basically the toddler playing hide and seek who “hides” behind a 3-inch wide pole in plain sight and thinks if he doesn’t move no one will notice him, going so far as to yell “you can’t see me!” when you stop counting. Yeah, there was literally no mystery to anyone except Savannah, and that just made her look foolish and even more naive than she already looked.
Overall, it was an enjoyable read. There were some legitimately funny and clever moments and some quirky side characters that were occasionally over the top, but they did keep things interesting. I can’t help but hate Savannah’s chosen pen name. You have a name like Savannah Cade, which sounds like it was made for romance novels, and you publish under something mundane like Holly Ray? That’s a very petty quibble, but so be it. I will also note, this book is classified as Christian fiction, which I didn’t even realize until after I’d read it, and I really see no reason for that designation beyond the fact that it’s as devoid of sex and language as the public perception of a nunnery. If you like your romance clean, this is the book for you, but you don’t have to worry about the appearance of Jesus with the keys to the chastity belt and a lecture about piety, which is quite a relief to this reader. My rating: 3 stars.
Published February 15, 2022 by Thomas Nelson. ISBN 0785231072. Audiobook. Runtime 7 hrs. 51 mins. Narrated by Talon David.