Leigh Kramer's Reviews > Three Simple Words

Three Simple Words by A.J. Pine
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really liked it

There are plenty of romance subgenres but I do believe I've found a new favorite: book nerd romance. After reading the description for Three Simple Words, I knew I'd be in book nerd heaven and I was right. Three Simple Words was such a fun read. It had the perfect amount of humor and angst.

Annie owns a bookstore, writes a blog called Happy Ever After, and loves romance novels. Her bookstore is facing a little financial trouble when in swoops her brother's best friend Wes whose first book was an explosive hit.

She didn't like his book because the hero never evolves but she needs the business and the event is a smashing success. I was surprised she'd never hosted an event before because this seems like a common bookstore practice but better late than never.

Everything changes when Wes ends up becoming Annie's date to a wedding. As they get to know each other, as Annie faces a few uncomfortable truths about her love life, sparks fly and the fun begins. Their night together also breaks down Wes's writer's block and his second novel, which is already overdue, starts to flow. At this point, I couldn't put the book down.

There are so many delicious nods to romance novels and tropes and happily ever afters, as well as general book nerdery. I loved seeing how Annie functioned as a bookstore owner and found her blog posts to be really fun and engaging. I loved watching the story pour out of Wes once Annie became his unwitting muse, as well as the behind-the-scenes info on the publishing industry.

"'It's fiction. Just like all those books you read where love conquers all. Did you ever stop to think about what comes after that happily ever after? Or even at the end of a book you found so hopeless you assumed the writer was a lost cause, too? The book ends, but in real life the story doesn't.'" p. 245

I found Annie and Wes's ongoing conversation about the difference between real life and fiction to be especially interesting. Wes's hero is informed by Wes's life but they are not the same people, despite the thin line between them. Wes has a lot of unresolved grief and a strained relationship with his father that directly impacts his writing. It's no wonder Annie is confused about whether Wes and Ethan are the same person and takes the pages from his work-in-progress a little too close to heart.

The thin disguise between Wes and Ethan is one of the main drivers of the plot. Annie wants Wes to become more emotionally engaged. Once she falls for him, she wants to love him into loving her back. Wes and Annie both have unexpressed high expectations for each other and this leads to major miscommunication and misunderstanding. This was frustrating at points as a reader- gah, why would you act that way when you actually feel this way?!- but people really do behave this way, especially when they're taking vulnerable risks in a relationship.

One of the most satisfying scenes in the book is when Annie realized for all her concerns about Ethan, she was actually closed off to relationships.

"And that's all it took, one tiny gesture to make her see that as much as she'd thought him the one with the walls to break down, she'd constructed barriers of her own. Annie loved the books she read- the happily ever afters and the hope that love could conquer all. But in the back of her mind, no man could live up to her expectations. She saw that one- the reason why she seemed to play it safe, always ending up with men she wasn't sad to see leave...She'd never let anyone in who was real. What a hypocrite she was for giving Wes shit about a book that didn't end in a happily ever after when Annie preferred the fictional heroes to reality. What did it natter that she'd dated men, that she'd lost them, when she didn't care for them like she should have in the first place?" p. 204

I do think this is a common misunderstanding about romance readers- that we confuse fictional HEAs and idealized heroes from what is standing before us. It's not true for me, at least. But it made perfect sense for Annie and how she held herself back in big and small ways.

When Wes and Annie finally made up, I couldn't help but giggle and then swoon. I'm a big fan of both characters needing to make an effort because true to life, they were both at fault.

I haven't read the first two books in this series- which I plan on remedying- so I was unfamiliar with the friendships and relationships in the Kingston Ale House world. Authors who make sure their heroes and heroines have outside friendships deserve all thanks and praise. Annie's friendship with Brynn was fantastic, even though Brynn couldn't keep Annie's secrets when it comes to her fiancé. (WHY DO PEOPLE DO THIS? This is a personal pet peeve.) I liked how they worked together and maintained their friendship and how their conversations included things other than their love lives.

I also liked how the characters were there for each other, whether it was giving someone a spare room or keeping an eye out for their well-being. It was a solid crew and I'm looking forward to getting caught up on the series.

Also worth mentioning: the characters were White Sox fans, which made my day. So often novels set in Chicago go the way of the Cubs (boo), which made me appreciate this fandom choice all the more. It says a lot about the characters and the author. Pine has me as a fan for life!

This was such an enjoyable read. I loved how Wes and Annie's romance developed and how they both grew as individuals and as a couple. I loved all the book nerdery. (Please give me more romances set in bookstores or focused on book lovers!) This book made me smile and it made me feel a lot of feels.

Disclosure: I was provided an ARC of Three Simple Words from IndieSage in exchange for an honest review.
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Reading Progress

September 19, 2016 – Shelved
September 19, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
October 17, 2016 – Started Reading
October 18, 2016 – Finished Reading

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