Love at First Book, by Jenn McKinlay

May 3, 2024 Book Reviews 3 ★★★★

Love at First Book, by Jenn McKinlayLove at First Book by Jenn McKinlay
Published by Berkley on 5/14/2024
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 368
Format: Kindle or ebook
Source: the publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble | Audible
Add to Goodreads


When a librarian moves to a quaint Irish village where her favorite novelist lives, the last thing she expects is to fall for the author’s prickly son… until their story becomes one for the books, from the New York Times bestselling author of Summer Reading.

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.

When Siobhan’s health takes a bad turn, she’s more determined than ever to finish her novel, while Kieran tries every trick in the book to get his mother to rest. Thrown into the role of peacemaker, Emily begins to see that Kieran's heart is in the right place. Torn between helping Siobhan find closure with her series and her own growing feelings for the mercurial Irishman, Emily will have to decide if she’s truly ready to turn a new page and figure out what lies in the next chapter.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

This book contains mature content and may not be suitable for younger readers.

A warm, cozy hug of a romance, and a tribute to books, writers, and booklovers

Librarian Emily Allen arrives in Ireland to spend a year working as assistant to her favorite author, a YA novelist who hasn’t published a book in 10 years. Or rather, she’ll be spending her mornings as Siobhan Riordan’s assistant, and her afternoons working in the village bookstore owned by Siobhan and her son Kieran Murphy, a bookseller with romance-hero looks and a surly manner.

Kier soon makes it clear he doesn’t want Em there — neither in the bookstore nor helping his mother get over her decade-long writer’s block. But Em, who has spent her life trying to please her narcissistic, domineering mother, discovers a stubborn streak and a fierceness she didn’t know she had. She refuses to let Kier drive her away from Siobhan, from the bookshop, or from Ireland. And soon she begins to wonder if Kier might be as reluctantly attracted to her as she is to him.

I loved a lot of things about this book. Em and Kier’s banter is great, especially because Kier brings out a feistiness in Em that she never knew she had. Em’s illness anxiety disorder is handled compassionately and accurately (to the best of my knowledge.) Em herself is kind, likeable, enthusiastic, and good at solving problems. It’s a pleasure to watch her bloom and become more courageous and outspoken after spending much of her life trying to keep her (terrible) mother happy.

Kieran starts out as a fairly generic hero (in the handsome-but-grouchy vein), but as he opens up more, his character becomes a bit deeper and more complex, and thus more compelling. it’s easy to see why Em’s initial, physical attraction evolves into something more. Siobhan is a delight, and her acceptance and caring are healing for Em. And as a reader for whom several series were deeply important to me in my childhood and young adulthood, I loved seeing Em get the opportunity to work closely with her idol. I also enjoyed the bookstore staff, the village, and the Irish countryside, and wished we got more time with them.

Most of all, I loved how bookish this novel is. McKinlay describes the Last Chapter bookstore in loving detail. Throughout the book, Em and Kier have an informal competition, each weaving literary quotes into their conversation for the other to identify by book and author; the books they quote range from children’s classics to adult literature. And Siobhan’s fictional Tig McMorrow series has much in common with the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson series, following Tig’s adventures in a magical world as he grows from child to young adult. (Siobhan’s last name clearly pays tribute to Percy Jackson creator Rick Riordan.) But because the series remains unfinished, with Tig literally in limbo at the end of the last book published, Em’s need for closure will also resonate for fans of G. R. R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss. Finally, Em makes references to several romance novel tropes… and daydreams a few scenarios involving Kier.

I admit, there are a few things I wish Ms. McKinlay had done differently. The prose sometimes has more of the tone, flavor, and lightness of a cozy mystery, particularly at the beginning. (Not surprising, given that McKinlay is best known as a cozy mystery author.) Em narrates in the first person, which means we never experience Kier’s thoughts and feelings directly; that’s not unheard of in a contemporary rom-com, but I think I would have been even more invested in their relationship if I had seen it from both sides. Given the serious nature of one of the plot lines, I also would have appreciated deeper ccharacter and relationship development overall. Not that there was no depth of feeling! On the contrary, the book had me in tears at least twice, and only once were they happy tears.

The book takes place during late summer, fall, and winter, but it’s such a delightful wish-fulfillment romance, I highly recommend sticking it in your beach or vacation bag this summer.

Challenges: COYER Unwind, Chapt. 1; NetGalley & Edelweiss Challenge 2024


Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Unwind (2024) - Chapter 1
  • NetGalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2024

3 Responses to “Love at First Book, by Jenn McKinlay”

  1. Katherine

    I just finished this one and really enjoyed it too. I love when a character really seems to love books. So often being a reader is just a listed character trait but Em really talked like a reader!

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.