Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️+
“I finally wanted something more than I feared.”
Fearful. Anxious. Introversion. All of these words could easily describe the heroine of Nora Everly’s newest book, Crime and Periodicals. Sabrina is indeed all of these traits, but, as we find through her journey towards love, they are only a small part of her. Instead, what we (and she) find out is we can be more than what we’ve always been. Through her journey, in this sweet romance, we learn that love can help us conquer anything, even the parts of life that scare us the most.
Crime and Periodicals is the next SmartyPants Romance book. It’s set in Green Valley, Tennessee in Penny Reid’s Winston Brothers universe. Sabrina is a local librarian’s assistant. She has spent a large portion of her life ferreted away in her home due to her introversion/shyness. Her niece and nephews along with the library have been the sole focuses of her life, but she has decided to work to overcome her anxiety about the bigger community at large. She meets Wyatt, formerly of Green Valley, but who left for college and other pursuits. He has returned to Green Valley, a local sheriff’s deputy and single father to two young girls. The life he lives now isn’t the life he dreamed for himself when he was younger, but he’s happy with it nonetheless. He and Sabrina meet when Sabrina’s nephew, Harry, has a meltdown on their drive home from his school. Worrying over him, Sabrina pulls to the side of a mountainous road to soothe him. Wyatt and Jackson, another deputy, come upon her and decide to help her. Wyatt drives her down the hill so that she can continue to care for her nephew. They are instantly attracted to each other. Unfortunately, Sabrina is very shy and fairly awkward with him. Thankfully, Wyatt finds it endearing, and it makes him feel protective over her. It also raises his interest in her more. Over the course of a week or so, Wyatt finally secures a date with Sabrina, who gradually begins to open up to him. However, Wyatt’s life is complicated as a single father, and he worries that his life will cause problems for a potential relationship with Sabrina. Will Wyatt and Sabrina find a future together, or are their lives too complicated, forcing them apart forever?
Sabrina is this charming heroine of contradictions. She is equal parts shy, sexy, bold, and fearful. What makes her likable is her acknowledgment of those contradictions. She never tries to be more. Her progression and growth make her this multi-dimensional heroine, and she is the best part of the book. She’s all of us who have ever felt awkward and different, and she is meant to show us the need to push ourselves beyond our fears and anxieties. Ultimately, it’s her resiliency and her tenacity to change that should inspire all of us towards personal growth.
Additionally, Wyatt is the prototypical hero. He is everything you love in a hero: handsome, masculine, compassionate, and an amazing single dad. His life isn’t what he dreamed in his youth, but he is contented with it even with the complication of a disinterested ex-wife. This is his real complication. Yes, he’s a single dad, and that seems like it could be his issue to contend with. Instead, it’s his worry over his daughter’s absentee mother and his ability to fill her place that wreaks havoc for him. That being said, he recognizes quickly that Sabrina would make a wonderful partner and mother, and there is very little undoing between these two. They have clear chemistry; it flies off the page. There are only mild times of tension within the development of their relationship that sometimes makes him feel like a two-dimensional character in contrast to Sabrina’s layered characterization.
What I find most lovely about this book is (1) its placement in the Green Valley canon, and (2) its use of difference to suggest that we can live with fears and anxieties but we cannot fall prey to them. We must keep growing and trying to overcome them. Every time a SmartyPants Romance book is published, I’m excited. I love Green Valley. Even its more annoying residents are overcome by the decency of the rest. Reading Wyatt and Sabrina’s love on the page was comforting and sweet. They are really, really sweet together. Sabrina is innocent, so this reads like a first love story in all its beauty. Most importantly, however, is Crime & Periodical’s theme: love as a means to overcome. It is easy to see that theme resonate through Sabrina and Wyatt’s journey, but it is also found in Harry’s development through his autism, her former best friend, Willa’s return to town, and Sabrina’s nephew Weston’s ability to move beyond his break up. I’d like to think that Nora Everly is challenging us to consider our own fears and allow love to help us beyond them. It seemed to work for Sabrina, and I’d like to think it would work for the rest of us.
In love and romance,