Book Review: 'Happily Ever Afters' by Elise Bryant.


I had seen this gorgeous book cover over on Twitter and when reading the blurb I knew immediately that I had to read it. This is Elsie Bryant's debut book and it is brilliant. 



Blurb


Sixteen-year-old Tessa Johnson has never felt like the protagonist in her own life. She's rarely seen herself reflected in the pages of the romance novels she loves. The only place she's a true leading lady is in her own writing--in the swoony love stories she shares only with Caroline, her best friend and #1 devoted reader.

When Tessa is accepted into the creative writing program of a prestigious art school, she's excited to finally let her stories shine. But when she goes to her first workshop, the words are just...gone. Fortunately, Caroline has a solution: Tessa just needs to find some inspiration in a real-life love story of her own. And she's ready with a list of romance novel-inspired steps to a happily ever after. Nico, the brooding artist who looks like he walked out of one of Tessa's stories, is cast as the perfect Prince Charming.

But as Tessa checks each item off Caroline's list, she gets further and further away from herself. She risks losing everything she cares about--including the surprising bond she develops with sweet Sam, who lives across the street. She's well on her way to having her own real-life love story, but is it the one she wants, after all?



My Review

'Happily Ever Afters' was like a hug in a book for me. I definitely cuddled the paperback a few times when reading and may have squealed a lot too. I adored Tessa straight off the bat. I loved her love for writing and was pulled in to her conversations with her best friend Caroline. It made me smile how she only let Caroline read her novels and how she wrote from the heart putting Caroline and herself into the love stories they dreamt about. Caroline was extremely awesome in how supportive and passionate she was about Tessa's writing too. Finding those people that lift you up and champion you is so special and I simply loved their bond. It felt like Kelly and I when we get into our little writing zones and how I can share everything with her. Also, I just found myself smiling from ear to ear with how happy the stories made the two of them. Elise wrote in a way that filled me with joy and pride for romance stories. Often I think we feel the need to justify love stories and are made to feel like they are cheesy and that they don't matter as much as classic literature, but just listening to how excited they made Caroline and how incredibly happy they made Tessa when writing them made me connect with the girls so much. It gave me that overwhelming gleeful feeling of how writing romance is important and how happy endings are wonderful and magical and we need them. Furthermore, Elise got a Jack Kerouac reference in when Tessa is panicking about her writers block and talking about not being at his level...this is my thought process on the daily and then I have to remind myself, just like Tessa has to, that her writing is hers and if it makes her happy that's all that matters. 


The setting of Chrysalis was awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the campus and hearing about everyone's different conservatories. It all sounded very much like a dream, a place full of creativity and where people can flourish in their imaginations. I loved the friends that Tessa made in Lenore, Theodore and Sam, but more on Sam in a moment. 


First, lets talk about Tessa's writer's block. This was very much one of the reason's why I hugged this book so much as I could truly relate to her frustration in not being able to write. I had a period like this last year where I was full of self doubt and so I could totally feel what she was feeling. It was like she was saying all the thoughts that flit through my brain. Caroline's plan of going through all the romance tropes in real-life in order for Tessa to get her groove back had me giggling, especially when the girls talked about clumsiness and setting up getting caught in the rain. Honestly, this was so much fun. Who doesn't dream of these things happening in real life? 

I apologize if this review is a little all over the place. I literally just finished reading the book (Saturday morning) and then I had to watch 'To All the Boys Always and Forever' on Netflix again, I only just watched it last night, and I am in a complete loved up state. Tessa happens to like 'To All the Boys' and there are a few references in this gorgeous book too, so I'm just giddy and can't stop smiling. I think 'Happily Ever Afters' would make a brilliant movie too!! Get on that Netflix, please! 


Ok, so I can't hold it in much longer. I want to talk about Sam!! Strike that, I HAVE to talk about Sam!! I really don't want to give away any spoilers but SAM!!! I have to say that I was rooting for Sam from the get go but you will have to tell me your thoughts when you read the book. When Sam introduces himself, in his cargo pants and Hawaiian shirts, Tessa immediately puts him in the friend zone. She doesn't see him as a leading man, those thoughts are saved for Nico, a guy at school who looks like he has walked straight out of one of her romance novels. But good lord I was waiting for her to see what was in front of her. I very much wanted to dive inside the book and scream "Abort mission, abort mission," as she tried to create all the wonderful tropes with Nico because SAM. Have I said Sam's name too many times now? I absolutely adore when we get guys who are just beautiful on the inside and out. To me Sam was the coolest and I loved how passionate he was about his art, cooking. My only negative is that when purchasing this book it did not come with a box of freshly baked treats from Sam because my mouth watered at everything he made. Thinking about him makes me smile. He is precious and so if you haven't guessed, I'm Team Sam!! Will you be Team Nico? Get your copy of the book today and let me know!!!!


Another beautiful thing about this story was Tessa's relationship with her brother, Miles. Miles was funny, sweet and passionate. I loved his love for the band Dream Zone and how happy they made him. I also loved how we got to hear Tessa talk about their relationship, about how other people treat him and how it makes her feel. Miles has disabilities but to her he is just Miles. The moments where they are hanging out, eating pizza, watching TV and dancing while singing their hearts out made me smile because we get to see that in addition to the times he gets upset and angry. I loved how Tessa explains that that is simply his way of expressing himself and being himself too and that is more than ok. All of it makes up him and who he is and I just adored that and their bond. She had Miles' back, just as much as he was always there for her. 


Tessa's Mum and Dad were also wonderful. Her Mum was a sweetheart and I loved when we got to see them have some time together. After Tess speaks up about the lies she has told and what she has been doing and going through at school, her Mum offers advice and is incredibly kick ass when doing so. I liked that this and many moments throughout the book emphasised talking about feelings and not keeping them bottled up. Tessa struggles with anxiety and overthinking but she talked a lot about how it helped when she shared her worries with other which I think is so important. Another cool thing was getting to listen to Tessa talk about her hair. I loved hearing about all the different styles and how she could go to her Mum and ask her to try a look and her Mum could do it for her after learning from her husbands side of the family. Tessa's Dad was also lovely and it made me smile how Tessa talked about how hard he worked and her understanding of them moving because her Dad was always looking after and doing what was right for their family. It was cool to hear that as I know as teenagers it can be hard leaving behind friends and attending new schools but that appreciation for what her Dad was doing was sweet and inspiring. 


'Happily Ever Afters' is utterly charming and I adored every page. I highly recommend you pick up a copy of this heart warming, romantic and inspiring read now! I had a little break from writing over the past couple of days but after reading this book I was itching to write and channel my inner Tessa, that's how happy and giddy this book made me! I think everyone will love it, but if you are a budding writer, I suggest you read it like ASAP. It's simply one of those gorgeous reads that will have your brain whizzing about all the things you can create through writing and all the stories that you can tell. I truly loved being in Tessa's world. 



Happy reading! 


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