*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*
CW: loss of a loved one, parental abandonment, grief
Love, Lists, & Fancy Ships is Sarah Grunder Ruiz’ debut women’s fiction/contemporary romance novel. However, while the cover looks very sweet and fun, I’m very glad I knew going in that grief would be a central aspect of the book. As my reading list tends to show, I gravitate towards books that deal with loss and the handling of grief quite regularly, so I was pleased to see how it was dealt with here. It’s a topic that can easily become overwhelming, but while the sadness was always there as an undercurrent, there were so many beautiful and upbeat moments in the story to balance it out, so it never felt too heavy. I can confidently say that I can imagine everyone who has suffered a loss in their lives, finding Love, Lists, & Fancy Ships deeply moving and relatable.
We start off with Josephine Walker aka Jo at her job on a charter yacht. It’s such a fun setting, but what I enjoyed even more than that were the characters that gradually got added. You could feel the history Jo has with each individual as they felt fleshed out and real. There wasn’t a single person I didn’t like to read about. Nina is the kind of ride-or-die best friend one can only wish for. Alex is the kind of love interest you really want to root for, because he is kind and funny and charming and definitely also hot. He’s one of the few romantic leads where I didn’t have to constantly shake my head in disappointment about the choices he made. However, the romance doesn’t actually always take center stage, as the familial relationships with the nieces, daughters and sisters are just as important. It definitely felt like a well-rounded cast!
Jo makes it her priority to be the fun aunt, to distract everyone from the never ending sadness, which backfires on a few occasions. Still, the bucket list was a fun addition, especially when the gang got creative in how to tick off the last few items before time ran out.
The things I didn’t love so much about the book where all very me-problems. For one, I could not handle the Chris Evans disrespect. While Zac Efron gets celebrated (in an ironic way or not), Chris Evans gets described as old and gross. There’s literally only a six-year-age-difference between the two actors, but okay … guess I’m an old millennial myself at this point. Then there was an airport run, which I’m never a fan of, but most of all, I was bugged by the way Jo’s blogging experience was described. It’s very rare that a personal blog with, how can I put this, infrequent updates gets such a big following within less than a year that she’d get multiple concerned emails for not posting. It honestly didn’t feel very realistic to me, while everything else in the story had an authentic vibe.
Overall, I really enjoyed this journey! I felt close to the characters and shed tears on several occasions, while I also laughed out loud more than once. I was especially excited when I saw that my copy included a teaser chapter for a potential sequel with Jo’s best friend Nina as the narrator, set two years after Love, Lists, & Fancy Ships ends. I’d be so here for it! (And book 3 could be about Britt and RJ … just saying …)
Fazit: 4/5 stars! A really beautiful exploration of grief, without ever getting too heavy.