Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Review - - Love at First Book

Love at First Book
by Jenn McKinlay
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: May 14, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

Emily Allen, a librarian on Martha’s Vineyard, has always dreamed of a life of travel and adventure. So when her favorite author, Siobhan Riordan, offers her a job in the Emerald Isle, Emily jumps at the opportunity. After all, Siobhan’s novels got Em through some of the darkest days of her existence.

Helping Siobhan write the final book in her acclaimed series—after a ten-year hiatus due to a scorching case of writer’s block—is a dream come true for Emily. If only she didn’t have to deal with Siobhan’s son, Kieran Murphy. He manages Siobhan’s bookstore, and the grouchy bookworm clearly doesn’t want Em around.

Emily persists, and spending her days bantering with the annoyingly handsome mercurial Irishman only makes her fall more deeply in love with the new life she’s built – and for the man who seems to soften toward her with every quip she throws at him. But when she discovers the reason for Kieran's initial resistance, Em finds herself torn between helping Siobhan find closure with her series and her now undeniable feelings for Kier. As Siobhan's novel progresses, Emily will have to decide if she’s truly ready to turn a new page and figure out what lies in the next chapter.

PJ's Thoughts:

Okay, who among us has had the occasional fantasy of moving to an Irish village and falling for the hot owner of the local book shop? Just me? That is certainly not what Emily had in mind when she accepted author Siobhan Riordan's offer to be her assistant but that's exactly what happened. Well, that's what happened after a fair amount of push and pull between the "let's modernize the bookshop" Em and the "change is not in my vocabulary" Kier. Oh, and did I mention that Kier - the bookshop owner - is also Siobhan's overprotective son? Or that there's a very good - and secret - reason for the fact that fans have been waiting ten years for her to write the final book in her wildly popular book series? Or that Em's main reason for moving to Ireland was to escape her suffocating existence under her emotionally abusive mother's thumb? Yeah, there's a lot going on in this book. I may have used more than a few tissues but there was also plenty of laughter and a whole lot of fun. 

Jenn McKinlay creates multi-layered stories with relatable characters with complex layers, giving them emotionally challenging circumstances, realistic flaws, and undeniable chemistry, then guides them through the fray, as they evolve and grow into the best versions of themselves. Sometimes there is heartache. Also, anger and frustration. But, just as often, there's humor, friendship, romantic awakenings, and love. 

I loved the chemistry - and conflict - between Em and Kier. It was fun to watch them spar and then, eventually, come together...for his mother and for themselves. I really rooted hard for these two.

The relationship that developed between Siobhan and Em was heartwarming and also heart-wrenching. After a lifetime of emotional abuse from her own mother, it was wonderful to watch Em flourish under the nurturing attention of Siobhan. My only real quibble with the book is that we didn't get to see resolution between Em and her mother on the page. I really wanted that. 

The sense of place that McKinlay created transported me straight to that Irish village. I could hear the music from the pub, feel the mist on my skin, hear the lyrical tilt of voices from the locals, and want nothing more than to book a flight tomorrow. If this book doesn't make you want to visit Ireland, I don't know what will.

If you enjoy contemporary fiction with humor, heart, romance, complex characters, an Irish bookshop (complete with a broody - did I mention hot - Irish owner), and emotional depth, add Love at First Book to your summer reading list. 

For those of you who read McKinlay's Summer Reading (May 2023 - click to read my review), Emily Allen is the best friend of Sam, Summer Reading's main female character. Em is a secondary character in that book and Sam and Ben appear in Em's story, Love at First Book. You don't have to read the books in order but I enthusiastically recommend them both. 

This may be a bit of a spoiler but for those readers for whom these may be triggers, I feel it's important to know. Also, the impending death is revealed early in the book. 

Content Warning: emotionally abusive parent, cancer, death


  1. My dream started with Ireland and then I moved to Scotland. I think this story sounds so interesting. A book shop, an author I love and an interesting guy.....please note.....I mentioned the book shop first. I am a fan of Ms McKinlay. She is a talented writer. Thanks for the review. And a reminder of one of my favorite dreams.

  2. I love books set in Ireland. I have never been but on my bucket list.,

  3. Thanks for the review, PJ! I loved Summer Reading and look forward to this book!

  4. I have pictured "my" stone cottage surrounded by a white fence and roses on the Irish coast for years. Celtic music is a favorite and the two ceilidh and look forward to attending more. I would visit a book store in the village, but I already have my hero so haven't really pictured anyone else. Visiting Ireland has been in our plans for years, but the original plans were interrupted by COVID. They are back on top of our list for trips. There is some genealogy to work on to expand the work my brother has done.
    This sounds like an enjoyable, touching read. Thank you for the review.

  5. Summer Reading was one of my favorites last year and I recommended it often. I am looking forward to reading this book, especially after reading this review. Thanks!