Sunday, July 7, 2024

Book Review: It Started with a Book

By Sara Steven

When she’s ghosted by yet another Tinder match, Leighton swears off dating for life. Who needs apps and blind dates when she has the perfect-in-every-way (apart from being fictional) heroes of her beloved romance novels?

That night Leigh finds a second-hand book on her TBR pile, which transports her to the small-town of Lakeville Hills, where the heroines wear shorty-shorts and the men drink bourbon. And as Leigh drifts off to sleep, she dreams of billionaire cowboy Killian St Clair, who could win a gold medal for smouldering and bicep flexing.

For a while, Leigh finds it easier to stomach misogynistic supervisors, newly coupled friends, and extravagant bridesmaid duties knowing she can return to Lakeville Hills each evening. Until one day, she wakes up to find she’s brought a bit of Lakeville Hills back with the impossible sexy and entirely implausible Killian St Clair is in her apartment.

Now Leigh must help Killian navigate the real world. But as she gets to know the man behind the trope, can she keep her heart safe, or does she risk falling in love with her book boyfriend in real life? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I loved the unique concept and vibe that surrounds It Started with a Book! There was a time in my life when I’d considered writing a short story that focused on my protagonist having two lives; the waking world, or what could be considered the “real” world, and another life that she lives while sleeping. This book brought that to life, and then some! A mysterious romance novel is the catalyst, and when Leigh falls asleep, she finds herself within its pages in Lakeville Hills, a fictional town where she manages her own bakery, wears short-shorts and clogs, and knows how to drive a stick shift pick-up truck.

The only problem? That’s not who Leigh really is. In her own “real” world in Chicago, she never uses her oven–or stove for that matter, she’d never be caught dead in short-shorts or clogs, and there is no way in hell she could ever shift manual gears with a stick shift. I thought the dream sequences were very well thought out and showcased just how out of her depth Leigh felt during the various transitions between her waking life and the dream one. When she falls back to sleep, it’s never where she left off, even when she wants it to be. And through it all, the book seems to hold all of the answers–a clever way to bring together both worlds.

And of course, there’s Killian. He’s perfection personified, the type of manly cowboy hero one can only dream of from a romance novel. There is no one who measures up to him, and gradually, Leigh begins to develop real feelings for him. She knows there is no hope for them, considering he’s not real and appears to be a figment of her imagination, but he seems so real. Not to mention his own feelings towards Leigh that factor into everything. 

Bringing Killian into the real world was a great move and added a fun element to this story. My only tiny gripe deals with the way he processes that change. I didn’t feel as though he felt as much trepidation as he should have. I would imagine a book character who leaves their hometown and magically appears within an environment that is so vastly different from their own might be dealing with some feelings of fear, or even disbelief. I didn’t feel that Leigh showed that as much as she should have, either. It felt too glossed over, but everything that happens before and after those moments really was perfection. I thought it was cute how they both had to sort of scramble along with finding a way to explain Killian’s existence and also, to find a way for Leigh to trust in a man who was a lot more trustworthy when he primarily existed within the pages of a book. It was a lot more safe. Like Leigh, I kept wondering if Killian would disappear one day, and I felt like that paralleled well with how I imagine a lot of us might feel in newfound relationships. Will this last? Is it forever? It Started with a Book was a fun, sweet experience, and well worth the read!

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK * Apple * Barnes & Noble * Kobo

Camilla Isley is an engineer who left science behind to enter the whimsical realm of romantic fiction.

She writes contemporary rom-coms. Her characters have big hearts, might be a little stubborn at times, and love to banter with each other. Every story she pens has a guaranteed HEA that will make your heart beat faster. Unless you're a vampire, of course.

Camilla is a cat lover, coffee addict, and shoe hoarder. Besides writing, she loves reading—duh!—cooking, watching bad TV, and going to the movies—popcorn, please. She's a bit of a foodie, nothing too serious. A keen traveler, Camilla knows mosquitoes play a role in the ecosystem, and she doesn't want to starve all those frog princes out there, but she could really live without them.

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