One of the romances I’ve most been looking forward to this year has been Better Than Fiction by Alexa Martin. Although I haven’t read her previous novels, this one looked adorable: A book-hater falling in love with a literal author? It doesn’t get better than that! I was thrilled to get an early copy of this book, and it was as delightful as I’d hoped.
Special thanks to the publicists at Penguin Random House and to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book!
One year ago, Drew Young lost her beloved grandmother and inherited her bookstore, the Book Nook. Although Drew doesn’t like books at all, she loves her grandmother and wants to keep her memory alive, and so is determined to keep the Book Nook running, even if it means putting her photography career on hold forever. Drew hasn’t been doing so well the past year, but she has a good support system between her best friend, Elsie, and her grandmother’s book club friends, known as the Dirty Birds. But those old ladies aren’t afraid to meddle, and they end up setting Drew up with a hotshot romance author, Jasper Williams. Thanks to them, Drew agrees to help Jasper get to know Denver, where his next book will be set. But as she shows him around her state and takes him to her favorite destinations, the two of them start to feel something more between them. Never mind that they’re too different and it could never work between them…
Almost immediately, I could tell that Better Than Fiction was going to be the perfect read for me. Right away, I found Drew Young to be a captivating character, and the balance of comedy and romance with serious topics, like grief, was compelling.
On the one hand, although this is a romantic comedy, Better Than Fiction does have its fair share of weight. Drew was close to her grandmother, who died a year ago and left her the bookstore she’d run, the Book Nook. Drew isn’t a reader, and she’s had to put her photography career on hold, but she’s determined to keep her grandmother’s legacy alive. In addition to grieving her grandmother, Drew feels the pressure of the book industry she knows so little about, she’s feeling burnt out and mourning the loss of her dream career, and she’s dealing with her evil dad trying to steal the Book Nook from her. This book tackles grief and mental health, giving both time to unfold here, but also balances that with levity elsewhere.
And truly, Better Than Fiction is otherwise a lot of fun. Let’s start with Drew’s romance with Jasper Williams, Author. (That’s how she often refers to him, full name and comma included! So funny.) Jasper is described as being so overwhelmingly attractive that everyone who comes into contact with him momentarily forgets how to function as a human. Strangers will see him and drop the drink they were holding or fumble with the credit card he just handed them, unable to process his transaction. It’s so over-the-top that I can’t help but think that the author was poking a bit of fun at how *hot* men often are in romances.
Another self-aware element is how meta this romance gets. Drew is learning to like books, and with Jasper being a romance author — and her friends being big fans of his novels — there are conversations about what stage of their romance Drew and Jasper are in. This is the part where there’s a final act conflict tearing them apart. This is the part where either Drew or Jasper needs to make a grand gesture. Drew and her friends talk about their love story as if they’re characters in a romance novel… not realizing that they are, in fact, characters in a romance novel.
Beyond those funny elements, Jasper and Drew also have such a sweet and solid relationship. They develop slowly and naturally, and I love how they usually communicate well and allow the other to open up and be vulnerable. Even when conflict does arise, it’s not so bad and is something that can realistically be overcome.
The side characters add to the story, too. Drew’s best friend Elsie is so excitable, and I love how she shouts and punches the air when something gets exciting. She also ships Drew and Jasper hard and is in love with their romance. Drew’s grandmother’s friends — the “Dirty Birds” who set Drew and Jasper up in the first place — are also a hoot and are the original fans of this cute couple. Elsie, Daisy, and the Dirty Birds are a solid support group for Drew, and I love how much presence they have here.
It’s fun to get to know Colorado with Drew and Jasper — I was living vicariously through these adventures! I also love that Drew is learning to appreciate reading. Her initial aversion to reading is, in my opinion, a fallacy. Girl, not all books end happily. Go read some sad books if that’s more your style. But in any case, I do support nurturing an appreciation for reading.
I adored Better Than Fiction from start to finish. It’s such a sweet book, filled with fun and laughs as well as grief and tears. Even with the different themes, it’s balanced and is a delightful read.
This is the first book I’ve read by Alexa Martin, but I’m now eager for more. Even though I’m not into sports, I may even read her whole football-themed Playbook series! Stay tuned for more reviews.
Get the Book
You can buy Better Than Fiction here – it’s available as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
|Better Than Fiction by Alexa Martin|
|Genre||Romance; Contemporary Romance|
|Number of Pages||336|
|Format I Read||ebook (NetGalley)|
|Original Publication Date||November 8, 2022|
Love isn’t always by the book in this charming romantic comedy about a bookseller discovering how to be the main character in her story.
As a self-proclaimed book hater and a firm believer that the movie is always better, Drew Young didn’t anticipate inheriting her grandma’s bookstore, the Book Nook. She’s in way over her head even before the shop’s resident book club, comprising seven of the naughtiest old ladies ever, begin to do what they do best—meddle.
Bestselling author Jasper Williams is a hopeless romantic. When he meets Drew at his Book Nook signing event, he becomes determined to show her the beauty of reading. He curates a book bucket list in exchange for her help exploring the local Denver scene for his current manuscript. From going river rafting to trying local restaurants, Drew begins to connect with Jasper in a way she only thought happened in fiction.
When messy family ties jeopardize the future of the Book Nook, Drew is caught between a bookshelf and a hard place. She’s reminded that real life isn’t always big dreams and sweeping romance. But Jasper is the plot twist she never saw coming and he’s writing a happily ever after just for them.
About the Author
Alexa Martin is a writer and stay at home mom. A Nashville transplant, she’s intent on instilling a deep love and respect for the great Dolly Parton in her four children and husband. The Playbook Series was inspired by the eight years she spent as a NFL wife and her deep love of all things pop culture, sparkles, leggings, and wine. When she’s not repeating herself to her kids, you can find her catching up on whatever Real Housewives franchise is currently airing or filling up her Etsy cart with items she doesn’t need.