Sunday, May 21, 2023

Review: Emma of 83rd Street by Audrey Bellezza and Emily Harding

Emma of 83rd Street by Audrey Bellezza and Emily Harding
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Emma of 83rd Street cover
ISBN: 978-1668008393
Release Date: May 23, 2023
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Beautiful, clever, and rich, Emma Woodhouse has lived twenty-three years in her tight-knit Upper East Side neighborhood with very little to distress or vex her…that is, until her budding matchmaking hobby results in her sister’s marriage—and subsequent move downtown. Now, with her sister gone and all her friends traveling abroad, Emma must start her final year of grad school grappling with an entirely new emotion: boredom. So when she meets Nadine, a wide-eyed Ohio transplant with a heart of gold and drugstore blonde highlights to match, Emma not only sees a potential new friend but a new project. If only her overbearing neighbor George Knightley would get out of her way.

Handsome, smart, and successful, the only thing that frustrates Knightley more than a corked whiskey is his childhood friend, Emma. Whether it’s her shopping sprees between classes or her revolving door of ill-conceived hobbies, he is only too happy to lecture her on all the finer points of adulthood she’s so hell-bent on ignoring. But despite his gripes—and much to his own chagrin—Knightley can’t help but notice that the girl next door is a woman now…one who he suddenly can’t get out of his head.

As Emma’s best laid plans collide with everyone from hipster baristas to meddling family members to flaky playboy millionaires, these two friends slowly realize their need to always be right has been usurped by a new need entirely, and it’s not long before they discover that even the most familiar stories still have some surprises.

Emma of 83rd Street is pure joy to read! Like the most successful modern-day Jane Austen retellings, authors Audrey Bellezza and Emily Harding take a classic story and give it their own spin, marrying the original plot with a story that can stand and be enjoyed on its own.

Emma Woodhouse is handsome, clever, rich, and a delightful heroine. She is at a crossroads in this novel; having successfully matchmade her sister she’s now feeling a bit lonely. Her friends are abroad, her sister has her new life, and it’s just Emma, her father, and the handsome, vexing George Knightley. Knightley has been Emma’s neighbor and best friend her entire life, but now something is different between them. Something Emma can’t quite put a finger on. With everything changing around them, perhaps it’s time for both Emma and Knightley to see that what they both need has been right in front of them the whole time.

Oh, how I adore Emma and Knightley’s romance. Their chemistry is perfect from the start – even as the two of them fight it. They fit like lock and key and can weather any storm, whether it’s Knightley’s disapproval of how Emma initially takes Ohio transplant Nadine under her wing to Emma pushing back on Knightley’s lecturing and pointing out that he isn’t perfect either. Each has lessons to learn and a need to look beyond how they think things should be. Bellezza and Harding take the attraction between our hero and heroine from the classic and add some heat to it which only makes the story better. I loved every bit of the love story between Emma and Knightley; it makes me smile even to think about them together.

Central to Emma of 83rd Street are Emma’s relationships with her friends and family. Even though her friendship with Nadine begins almost like a project to cure Emma’s loneliness, they really do become wonderful friends. I loved seeing Nadine come into her own over the course of the story – she’s a character I wouldn’t mind following longer. Both Emma and Knightley have strong relationships with family and friends at work and home and it was a delight to see them interact with those closest to them. Bellezza and Harding also leave the door open for more stories set in the same universe and I couldn’t be more excited by the possibilities.

Emma of 83rd Street worked for me on every level. As an Emma retelling it was perfect, blending the classic story with new energy, creating and combining characters in a way that felt familiar and fresh all at once. As its own novel, it was a delight. Emma and Knightley aren’t perfect, but they’re perfect for each other and were just wonderful to read about. I loved this book from beginning to end and I cannot wait to revisit it!

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.