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Book Review: Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships by Sarah Grunder-Ruiz

This post contains affiliate links. In addition, I was provided with a free copy of the book in exchange for my review. All thoughts are my own.

Author: Sarah Grunder-Ruiz

Sub-genre: Contemporary, leans toward women’s fiction

Content Warnings: death of a child (in the past, off page, heavily discussed); parental abandonment; death of a parent (in the past, off page)


Oof. This book y’all. I do not recommend reading the last twenty percent while in bed with your husband who is sleeping because yes, your quiet sobs will wake him up.

Jo works on a yacht and is basically living out that dream Below Deck life. She works with her best friend, has a cool condo in Florida, and is about to leave on a trip to visit five new countries, as part of her thirty things to do before her thirtieth birthday challenge. Unfortunately, her plans are thrown off course when her nieces show up in Florida, expecting to spend the summer with her like they always have in the past. Only this summer is a little different because it’s the first summer since Jo’s nephew was killed in a tragic accident. Jo had been looking forward to her escape, but she knows she can’t abandon her nieces when they need her most. And so she takes in the two teenagers and sets off on planning a summer full of distractions. But Jo hasn’t been dealing with her own grief, and is definitely not equipped to be guiding the teens through theirs. Luckily, the hot new neighbor Alex (who also happens to be the hot new yacht chef), has a teenage daughter and the three girls become instant friends. The group sets off to check off the final boxes on Jo’s list and lots of adventures ensue. But even though Jo and Alex clearly have feelings for each other, they both have a lot of emotional work to do before they could ever be together. Luckily, this is technically a romance, so they figure it out and live happily ever after.

This book will sneak up on you friends. At first it reads like a fun romcom, as we follow Jo on some of her more lighthearted tasks. We meet hot chef/single dad/neighbor Alex and I was buckled in for a summer romance on a yacht. And then all of the sudden, you’re so emotionally invested in these characters that you’re sobbing quietly in the dark of night because their grief feels so real and you just want them all to feel better. The overcoming of grief is definitely the center of this story and it was handled so beautifully it tugged on literally every single one of the heartstrings. I absolutely loved the relationship Jo had with her nieces, and the nieces themselves are so entertaining. I really enjoyed watching as Alex and Jo found their footing and discovered their relationship. I would have loved to see their relationship come to a head a little faster, but that’s mostly just me internally screaming “Just kiss already!” like I do at most romance couples. Overall, this was a stellar read, just make sure you have some tissues handy.

Overall Rating: 5 stars

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