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The Romance Reader's Guide to Life

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  775 ratings  ·  234 reviews
As a young girl, Neave was often stuck in a world that didn’t know what to do with her. As her mother not unkindly told her, she was never going to grow up to be a great beauty. Her glamorous sister, Lilly, moved easily through the world, a parade of handsome men in pursuit. Her brother didn’t want a girl joining his group of friends. And their small town of Lynn, Massachu ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 4th 2017 by Flatiron Books
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Average rating 3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  775 ratings  ·  234 reviews

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Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book turned out to be very different from my expectations. Yes it certainly is a romance and it is historical fiction but it is also a lot more than that! There is a book within a book, an interesting but dysfunctional family, some astonishingly poor marriage choices, violence and murder and a certain amount of interference from the 'other side.' I thoroughly enjoyed it!
The author writes well and her characterization is good. The most prominent character is Neave who along with her sister L
Whispering Stories
Book Reviewed by Nia on

This was a very enjoyable reading experience, but I’m not sure I’d call it a romance novel – despite the title and cover. I’m not sure what I was expecting going in, but it wasn’t drama, dark mystery or a theme of violence against women…

The book comes at you from a number of directions and timelines, primarily the lives of two sisters, Neave and Lilly, from their early childhood onward.

Neave is surly and belligerent though clever and strong willed
Caitlyn Lynch
May 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
There is a certain inherent distrust between the writers (and readers) of romance fiction and the devotees of literary fiction. Sharon Pywell, in a closing statement to this book, states that she never read a romance until after reaching adulthood, when she picked one up off a lending library shelf out of sheer boredom and a lack of something else to read.

The problem with coming to romantic fiction as an adult, as an author who already writes literary fiction, is the instinct to over-analyse th
*big shrug*

Not really what I expected. The "real" part of the story managed to be both somewhat bleak AND somewhat wish fulfillment. Three of the four siblings have super great careers! The fourth gets a great marriage!

And the supposed connection to the book within the book didn't come through at alll. I don't get why she kept reading the book. It didn't feel like it feels when you have a book you read over and over.

Just . . . happy to move on to a different book.
Jun 06, 2017 rated it liked it
The Romance Reader's Guide to Life is very different. Told through two narratives, this novel has romance, historical fiction, a ghost story, and suspense all rolled up into one. 3.5 ★s! ...more
Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*
First, major kudos on the cover.

Second, the back description and the cover may lead to an impression that this is a fun and potentially light/fluffy book, but that's not the case. It's half coming-of-age for a young woman who finds the world of books to be appealing when she gets to read for an elderly woman who has a romantic spirit. Naeve becomes particularly obsessed with a romantic tomb called 'A Pirate Lover', and throughout the book - until the very last chapters - bits of the book are mix
This book was AWESOME!!! I have always been a reader and this book is like it was written just for me. This book is full of everything (and more) that I love in a story. I feel sorry for the people I'm going to be raving this to because there is no holding back the love I have for The Romance Reader's Guide to Life!!! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you Sharon Pywell:) ...more
Karen Brooks
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life by Sharon Pywell was such an unexpected delight. Provided to me by NetGalley and the publishers (both of whom I thank for the opportunity to read and review), I confess the rather unusual and slightly formal title didn’t prepare me for the marvellous and very different content.
The novel is essentially two books in one, both of which are framed by the conventions of the world’s most popular genre: romance. The main narrative centres around two sisters: Lilly an
Apr 22, 2017 marked it as attempted-not-for-me
This is an example of a book I could have finished - it wasn't that it was badly written - but just didn't have the motivation to spend the time when I wasn't connecting with the story. Since it was completely disjointed. ...more
Jul 07, 2018 rated it liked it
I alway wish you could do half stars. I would give this book a 3.5. This was a very fascinating book. It is a blend of genres including primarily historical fiction, but also romance and magical realism. The narration of Lilly and Boppit from the after life was an interesting addition to the story. It reminded me of the Lovely Bones; where Lilly is trying to protect Neave and prevent her same fate. You know she is dead and trying to stop whoever killed her from killing Neave. The plot focuses on ...more
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life by Sharon Pywell was a total impulse read. I was at the library perusing the new arrivals shelf and the title and the beautiful cover lured me in. The book follows two sisters, Lilly and Neave, and their drive to build a Mary Kay type cosmetic empire. Neave is the “romance reader” and chapters of Neave and Lilly’s lives are interspersed with chapters from a romance novel that is her inspiration, The Pirate Lover. Lilly is murdered and is spending her time in th ...more
Carolyn F.
There's a book within a book here which at first I liked and then because the main story was so good, I started skipping those parts of the book. I loved the story of the siblings and of her dog in the afterlife. This book was sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes scary and sometimes romantic. Very good book. ...more
Renita D'Silva
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Funny, poignant, hugely enjoyable. Loved it.
Madeline Mora-Summonte
This thoroughly enjoyable novel has something for everyone. It's part coming-of-age, part historical fiction, with elements of mystery and the paranormal. It's a story of love in its many forms - familial, romantic, for books and stories, for life itself. There is desire for men but also passion for independence and success on the sisters' own terms. Oh, and don't forget the pirates!

* I received an ARC through a giveaway on Goodreads. *
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this. The talking dog in heels and the dead sister aspect was a little left field but I truly enjoyed the way the story was told. It's wonderful tale of two sisters that both flirt with the edge of desire and danger and one goes overboard. Femininity isn't shameful to either of them but they both embrace it in different ways. And the pirate lover parts were very fun too. ...more
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was such a surprise and a wonderful read. It was more than your stereotypical romance novel. Do yourself a favor and read it. You won't regret it. ...more
Mar 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Thank you Sharon Pywell and Netgalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
This book confused me for the first 100 pages and continued to niggle at me to the very end. Written in two voices and to have a romance novel inserted throughout the story, it took me a while to understand where I was being led. Then I read the reasoning from Sharon on why she wrote this story in the way she did. Romanceland vs the real world of love and evil. It then all made sense to me. I wish that her letter t
Mar 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I received a free copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

If I had to describe this story in one word that word would be interesting. It did take me a long time to get invested I was probably well over half way in before I actually really cared about what was happening with Neave. That is not to say it took that long to be drawn into the story just that it took me that long to warm up to Neave who while interesting (yes that word again) is not particularly likable or
May 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I wanted to fall in love with this book, but I didn't. I read to find characters I want to follow, and I finally figured out that I didn't care much about anyone in the book.
There's a main story with Naeve, smart but unappealing, who reads a romance about a woman and her pirate lover over and over again. In real life Naeve is uncomfortable dealing with people. She's a good person at heart, but meets with the world with coldness and bluntness.
Naeve's sister, Lilly, is lovely and charming, but a
Agnieszka Higney
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a really bizarre position.I have enjoyed a lot of the middle parts,set in post-war provincional America,two sisters setting up their own Avon/Amay business and dealing with relationships and family.The first and last parts of this novel though are really uneven and quite patched up.What a wonderful and ambitious title to give to a book-Reader's!!and then guide to life!!
This had none of lessons/morals/reflections you might expect.A pastiche of a pirate romance included,which reflects in o
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Full of surprises. It began as suspense (a missing person), slipped with surprising credibility into the afterlife, and included the entire text of an erotic pirate romance. Dark and yet funny. Quite a tour de force
Kailey (Kathryn is looking for me)
Um? I really don't know what to say. This is so much weirder and darker than I thought it would be. But it was great.

The narrative is split between three stories: Neave's life as it happends; Lilly's POV from Where She is Now; and also a story-within-the-story called The Pirate Lover, a book that is special to Neave and whose story somewhat parallels Neave's own journey.

There's so much going on throughout the entire novel that it's almost too much- too weird- but it all worked. At first I liked
K Whatsherface
Another book I picked up because of the title. Not what I thought it be. It has this weird thing going where it's kind of like 3 stories in one. The main one is neave, where we start with her childhood and go to the present. The present being the early 50s...I think. I know her childhood was the 30s. The second was her dead sister Lilly in the after life or as a ghost or something like that. And the last was what people think of when they think romance novel, the Pirate lover.

Overall I cant tel
Constance McKee
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2017
This is a book unlike anything I've ever read. It is women's fiction in that it tells the story of a romance novel-reading, reserved young woman's quest to discover her place in the world, and it focuses a lot on her relationship with her risk-taking sister. There's a cheesy, but fun, romance novel within the novel, too. The book also includes--oddly, but again fun--a cross-dressing, talking dog and deceased characters who talk and appear to the protagonist. Violence and sadism are present, and ...more
Shaz Goodwin
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life is narrated by alternating perspectives of twins Neave and Lilly. From Neave’s narration we get to experience many things – an American childhood leading up to WWII and Pearl Harbour; how she used books as a tool to understand the world (for instance, in the Pirate Lover novel Neave is reading the heroine’s mother tells her that to lie is a skill and the older lady Neave reads to, Mrs Daniels, repeats this to Neave questi
janille n g
This was such a strange novel, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! It featured a story within a story, and both plots were intriguing, fast-paced and exciting. I liked all of the characters very much, and found the detailing of Neave and Lilly setting up their own cosmetics company very unique and interesting. The several references to Jane Eyre were a bit simplistic and superficial, but they did still warm my heart. Overall, a much more entertaining read than I anticipated!

❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Not a romance. This is a story about a woman born in the '30s. In her youth her escape hatch from her family was a certain romance book called "The Pirate Lover". This novel goes back and forth between her life and the Pirate Lover book that she read and continues to read. This novel has ghosts, a murder, interesting historical fiction from those times AND the charming Pirate Lover! ...more
Lisa Ahlstedt
Feb 21, 2017 rated it liked it
This was an interesting book in that it combined two different stories: that of sisters Lilly and Neave as post WWII businesswomen, and a romance featuring plucky but powerless Electra Gates who throws her lot in with pirates rather than marry a despicable man (as you do). In the modern story, Lilly is the more flighty of the two sisters. She's attractive and sociable but doesn't seem to take life too seriously. Neave, in contrast, is more of an introvert, happier in the world of books than in t ...more
Chaya Nebel
Mar 04, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a very entertaining novel that combines several genres: family saga, ghost story, and bodice-ripper romance.

The family saga focuses on Neave and Lilly, two sisters in a family living through World War II New England. Neave is the reader; Lilly the boy-hungry extrovert. Neave is introduced to the wonderful world of books by Mrs. Daniels, who pays Neave to read to her. Dazzled by the literary riches on Mrs. Daniels' shelves, Neave spots "The Pirate Lover" and sneaks it home to read in the
May 25, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is really three stories in one: misfit girl coming of age, pirate romance, and woman in jeopardy from psycho stalker. If that sounds strange, it kind of is. The book is a bit disjointed at times, and I felt that the characters were too modern for the era in which they were supposed to be living. It mostly held my attention, though. I would probably read this author again.
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