Mini Review: Love Literary Style by Karin Gillespie 🎧

About mini reviews:

Maybe you’re not an audio book person, or maybe you are. I provide mini reviews of audio books and give a recommendation on the format. Was this book improved by a voice actor? Would a physical copy have been better? Perhaps they complement each other? Read on. . .

Thanks to Bill @ Australian Legend, I picked up Love Literary Style by Karin Gillespie. The premise sounded oddly similar to Beach Read by Emily Henry, which was still forthcoming at the time. In Gillespie’s novel, Aaron Mite is an adjunct professor with an MFA in fiction writing. His father, a professor emeritus at the same college, is a renowned critic of literary fiction named Dr. Horace Flowers. Thus far, Aaron has presented his father with two novels Aaron wrote, only to be told that these books would only be published if it Aaron told the publisher Dr. Flowers is his father. Rejected, Aaron starts new writing projects, hoping to get many pages done at a writer’s colony he was accepted to in the upcoming summer.

Laurie Lee is a high school graduate with a love of romance and rom-com. She married her high school sweetheart, who died one month into their marriage. Even though her writing is terrible, she enjoys creating stories with happily ever afters. A modest woman, Laurie knows her writing needs help, so she uses a co-worker as a beta reader and applies for a writer’s colony. Surprised to learn she was not only accepted but will receive a full scholarship, Laurie and Aaron are poised for collision.

Clad in brightly-colored clothes and arriving in a cute VW Bug, Laurie is eyed suspiciously at the Super Serious Literary writer’s colony. Because she’s the wrong person, though no one knows that yet. The writer who should have received a grant and acceptance to this literary colony is Lauren Leer, a serious and published author. Leer’s letter was sent to Laurie by mistake. Aaron doesn’t know this, and his curiosity about Laurie’s personality not matching Leer’s writing intrigues him. They fall in love, and at the end of the colony, when the mix up is revealed to everyone, Aaron doesn’t care Laurie is just a genre writer.

On the surface I supposed you could call this a romance novel, but the characters function more like vehicles to discuss the merits of literary vs. genre fiction. If you’re interested in serious writing or rom-com, you’ll recognize the arguments Karin Gillespie cleverly makes through her characters as they navigate social media marketing, publishers, editors, agents, book sellers, craft, and process. I found myself nodding along and smiling for most of the novel. The pacing holds steady, using just as much time as is necessary for each section while Gillespie holds the ending from us yet edges readers forward.

Cris Dukehart is a good choice for audio narrator of Love Literary Style. She captures a voice for Laurie that is sweet and girly and pivots to the serious Aaron, so academic he won’t stop wearing a corduroy jacket. Both main characters present as stereotypes at first, but are not. The way they try to adapt to each other — What is the significance of memorizing a poem? Is a jar of peanut butter a grand romantic gesture? — felt real, and I wanted both Laurie and Aaron to improve themselves, a goal that was a good motivation to keep listening.

It would be cruel if there weren’t a happily ever after, which you know will happen but not how, because Aaron didn’t even know what “rom-com” meant until he met Laurie. I enjoyed every moment of Gillespie’s beautifully blended novel and plan to check out more of her work.

22 comments

  1. I’m glad you read it and even more glad (relieved) that you enjoyed it. I listen to a range of romantic fiction (and read more Georgette Heyer than is good for me) so I was surprised when this one turned into quite an interesting discussion of genre fiction and still kept the happy ever after.

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    • I love that Aaron’s grand gesture is a jar of peanut butter because it both makes sense and none what so ever. I felt the characters were authentic while edging so slightly into the tropes that romance readers love.

      I never would have taken you for a romance reader, Bill! What about Heyer do you like so much?

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  2. Great review! I didn’t know much about this book before reading your review (even though it came out before Beach Read), but I DEFINITELY see the parallels! It does sound like this book explores the literary fiction vs. rom-com writing process more deeply than Beach Read, though. I’ll have to check this out soon!

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    • I hadn’t heard of this book at all until Bill recommended it, so I was surprised that his suggestion lined up so neatly with the publication of Beach Read. At least they’re not close in years published. There was the whole controversy with The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and The Giver of Stars.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a strange premise for a novel — but quite cute. I am interested in reading this not because of the plot, but because I want to learn more about writing without reading a non-fiction book! XD I find that most non-fiction books about writing are geared towards people who really want to improve their writing, rather than those who just want to learn. I’ve turned away from many books due to this. I am just curious to better understand what makes writing good vs. bad.

    After reading this, do you feel like it was similar to Beach Read or not?

    I also find it fascinating that since you published both this and Burning Brightly at the same time, your “previous post” for both of these will be the Flannery O’Connor post. You cannot jump from this to Brightly Burning or vice versa. I wonder when the next post comes up what it will link to… and then will the unlinked post have, overall, fewer stats due to it being less accessible? So curious!

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    • Love Literary Style does share opinions about what is good writing, but there are some elements of writing that people label “good” when they may just be sharing preference. For example, avoid adverbs. Well, why do we have them? I know precise diction is key, but if I choose an adverb, have I not chosen it carefully? Others argue never use any dialogue tag other than “said” if you can help it. Have you ever read a book that only uses “said”? I’ve had that experience, and it stands out as robotic when you’re reading aloud. There are rules, such as what’s allowed when a writer selects a point of view or which verb tense to use. That’s all mechanics, though.

      I have not yet read Beach Read.

      Not sure about statistics; I don’t use or analyze them for any purpose.

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      • Oh yes, I’ve definitely read books that only uses “said”. When I read it to myself, it’s fine. I often don’t even noticed! But aloud? Yikes. Not good.

        There is so much for me to learn about writing, even if there are just opinions. The last time I took a writing class in any form I was a sophomore in HIGH SCHOOL. Talk about an unbalanced education.

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  4. Great review! It does sound like the setup of this one is fairly similar to Beach Read, though I suspect the tone may be a bit different- it seems like these characters are perhaps a bit more antagonistic about their genre differences, whereas the antagonism in Beach Read stems mainly from a personal misunderstanding the characters have in college, though they actually have always liked each others’ (very different) work. Pitting the genres against each other more firmly though probably does give Love Literary Style more of a chance to dig into the writing side of things, whereas what I liked about Beach Read was that it was very focused on the romance, which just happened to be between two writers. I don’t know if I’m explaining my thoughts on the potential difference between them very well, especially as I haven’t read Love Literary Style yet and am just going by the synopsis and your review- but I think I will read it after all. The writing/genre commentary does appeal! I’m glad you enjoyed this one so much, and I hope you’ll end up liking Beach Read as well!

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    • Basically, I’ve heard that the main difference between Beach Read and Love Literary Style is the first is about romance and the second is about writing. I like the idea of both and plan to read Beach Read, though I likely won’t hurry to it like I had planned when it first came out.

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  5. this does sound like a lovely little read (or listen) and I can’t help myself, but I always like reading fictional books about authors, publishing, literary fiction vs genre fiction, all that stuff. Maybe it’s the inside jokes and stereotypes I enjoy? Who knows, but I can see why you’d like this one too.

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  6. This does sound fun! The main difference between this and Beach Read that jumps out is that in Beach Read both main characters are successful writers and January (she of the rom-coms) as a writer has already impressed the man (I can’t remember his name) with her writing skill. In this are both of them supposed to be poor writers? Maybe that doesn’t matter?

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    • Aaron is so devoted to his craft that he takes about five years to write a book. It has to be literary with a capital L. Lori just likes writing romance and enjoys it, though her lack of education sets her back in skill. It’s a point of contention between them, but the publishing worlds see it differently!

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    • The more I’m listening to audiobooks, the more it seems bizarre that the same person can narrate different books. This personal also narrated the novel Made for Love, which I reviewed in the fall. At first, I just kept hearing characters from the previous book, but eventually got over it.

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