She wears impractically high heels, no matter where she goes.
She’s always on a treadmill or a stationary bike, barking orders at her long-suffering assistant via her AirPods.
When she gets off the elevator, she hurls her jacket out and expects someone to materialize and catch it—and place a perfectly heated latte in her hand at the same time.
She’s the archetypical Big City Woman, and I love her. Perhaps more importantly, I’m curious about her. Every time some new iteration of her shows up in a show or movie or book, I find myself wondering where she’s coming from, and when the last page ends or the credits roll, I wonder where she’s headed.
That’s where Book Lovers—in its earliest draft, titled City Person—came from: my fascination not only with this kind of character and her potential origins but also with the way that stories tend to treat her. Like she’s someone else’s cautionary tale, a villain to be defeated, the foil to the small-town sweetheart the hero actually belongs with.
In this last scenario, she’s often a symbol of the life the hero needs to leave behind. She’s an addendum to the high-pressure job that keeps him from answering his parents’ phone calls. The one calling to check on how his business trip is going and to hound him for taking so long when the mass firing he was supposed to conduct at the local toy factory should have been an in-and-out job.
She’s representative of the shallow, empty life he needs to break free from to take hold of his happy ending.
Don’t get me wrong: I love these kinds of transformational fish-out-of-water stories.
I’m also a big believer in not taking one particular character’s journey as an indictment of a different kind of journey. Just because one guy decides to give up his high-powered job in the city to work at his new girlfriend’s small-town bakery doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. It takes all types, and no one type is any more or less worthy of love.
But what does it say if this one character, the high-strung Big City Woman, only ever shows up to act as another woman’s foil, to prove how worthy and good that other woman is by comparison?
Or if, when the Big City Woman finally gets her love story, it’s the same kind as the ones she’s been making cameos in for all these years? The kind where she leaves her life in the city, meets a man who’s her polar opposite and finds the true meaning of life on a charming Christmas tree farm.
What does it say about the way we see women like this if they’re never allowed a love story unless it hinges on them giving up everything we find so compelling about them?
That’s why I wrote Book Lovers. Not just because I thought it would be a blast to figure out what made this kind of woman tick but because I wanted to give her a different story, one where she wasn’t a foil or a villain or a cautionary tale but just another person, deserving of life-changing love and a happy ending—her version, not somebody else’s.
Photo of Emily Henry by Devyn Glista, St. Blanc Studios.