“Love by the Book” is a cute title, and the movie definitely delivers on the clichés for a Hallmark romance movie, except for one thing – the guys in this movie ARE NOT CUTE. I know, I was just as shocked to find this out while watching, and for a Hallmark movie where we have no substance for the characters, looks are honestly all we as viewers have to go on to decide who we’re rooting for, so I was thrown for a loop.
So we’ve got Emma, the main character – she’s a romantic bookstore owner, very blonde, and very single. She has a sister, Jane, who is a practical, easygoing nurse, and she’s engaged. Emma is older, which is a problem because as we all know, the older sibling has to be engaged first so that they can get married first, have kids first, get shingles first, and then die first. It’s the circle of life. Jane being engaged first throws all of this off, and Emma is getting a bit antsy for her prince charming to come already.
Like I mentioned, Emma owns a bookstore, and her private investor Frank tells her he’s going to have his son Eric shadow her at the store for a few weeks. Eric is a bony brunette in a button-up, which to me is a big NO. We all know you don’t root for the guy in the stuffy clothes, like suits or button-ups, you root for the guy in the sweater or henley. This theory has been proven multiple times.
Right off the bat, Emma and Eric don’t get along. Eric is all business, asking Emma why she gives away free wifi to non-paying customers and Emma is all about store culture, using a pun-based book organizing system. This seems like a really confusing and inefficient way to organize books for customers, so I totally get where Eric is coming from here. Plus, Emma never even set up a website for her bookstore! That’s a HUGE business oversight, especially for a movie that came out in 2014. Besides liking a few classic novels, what qualifies this woman to run a business??? How did she get a silent investor? This is post-2008 financial crash, investors are a bit more cautious with their money at this point…
During all this shadowing, there’s plenty of banter. Eric tells Emma she’s a romantic with a fairytale complex (he’s not wrong). But then Eric sees Emma read a book to a bunch of kids, aka she’s wifey material, and Eric, of course, begins to fall for her. DATING TIP: read shit to kids – someone’s gonna fall in love with you. I’m surprised more people don’t know that.
While she’s getting up from reading to the kids, Emma accidentally walks into a man and falls into his arms – they’re really laying it on thick for the romance here. She looks at him as if he’s the most handsome man on the planet, and I say this from the bottom of my heart, he is a legit 4 out of 10. Like I actually said “ew” when I saw him. He’s looking for freaking poetry because he’s a walking cliché and his name is LANDON. They straight up recite poetry together, which is NOT the same thing as having a real conversation, I’ll say it. He leaves and there’s lots of flirty looks and Eric is low key pissed because now he’s a little into Emma.
Upon arriving at home and hearing how her sister’s fiancé doesn’t actually care about planning their wedding (this is a subplot that’s not really worth explaining much more, you basically get it), Emma and Jane use the internet to stalk Landon – turns out he travels, surfs, and saves puppies. These could be things that Emma could have known HAD THEY HAD A REAL CONVERSATION.
The next day, there’s more banter between Eric and Emma – she wants a puppet theater, he wants her to start a website and blog. Then some lame flowers arrive from Landon. He legit doesn’t know her name and calls her “Book Goddess,” in the card – wow what a start to a relationship. The fact that Landon doesn’t even know her name doesn’t bother her and they set up their first date. Eric, keeping the banter alive and holding on for dear life that Emma realizes that Landon is lame, bets Emma that if she’s still interested in Landon in a month, he’ll get her the puppet theater for the bookstore. If not, then she has to agree to his ideas for the stores.
So Landon picks up Emma in a convertible, drives her to a park at night and they have dinner outside. He even reads her poetry, saying “it’s our poem” aka the one poem they read together in the bookstore when he wasn’t taking the time to learn her name. COOL so some guy you just met is taking you to a secluded dark park to act out some romance fantasy and he barely knows your name. I swear, different network and she’d be a goner. Like if this were a Lifetime movie and this first date happened, I’d be sure the dude was going to murder the main girl – like it’s weird-man-with-control-issues level. But it’s Hallmark so we’re safe.
Eric doesn’t miss a beat and calls right when the date is over. Dude knows how to be a backburner man (Definition: lingering as a second option for another person, putting yourself on the backburner for when the other relationship inevitably fails), gotta give him his credit. Plus he manages to talk her into starting her blog that night, so he knows what he’s doing. Speaking of knowing what he’s doing, Eric even suggests adding a cookbook section and doing a big kick off with a book signing by a local chef with a new cookbook. This man got IDEAS. That’s what I’m talking about.
We have more of the same, Landon sends expensive gifts that have nothing to do with who Emma is as a person, Jane gets upset that her fiancé doesn’t care about planning the wedding, etc.
Jane, the practical sister, talks with Emma and realizes Emma doesn’t know anything about Landon either. In fact, Emma knows more about Eric and keeps bringing up Eric, so much so that Jane is curious enough to search him. DRAMA, she finds out he’s a consultant for “stores in crisis.” UH OH – does that mean Emma’s bookstore is failing (obviously yes because she doesn’t know anything about business).
Right after this, Emma has another fancy date with Landon. She’s a bit distracted because she just learned about Eric and her failing business (which I guess is an honest to god surprise to her???) and Landon is straight up like “Hey, I don’t want to talk about work” EVEN THOUGH SHE IS CLEARLY UPSET AND IN NEED OF COMFORT. SO yeah he’s a 4/10 in looks and a 1/10 in being a nice person. Again, Emma is somehow not annoyed by this because he buys her fancy food and flowers.
Emma confronts Eric about being a consultant and the failing business – how come he just didn’t tell her? How did she not know her store was failing? Apparently being the owner “makes you oblivious to the big picture” which is the worst explanation I’ve ever heard, but this is just a nod and smile moment to get through, a Hallmark explanation to take at face value. Emma feels like just another number to Eric now – another store for him to fix – but he tells her the store is special (the store aka her, amiright???) and they’re going to fix it!
They get more funding from Frank! They make that website dope! They digitize the book collection! In fact, they digitize the book collection ~all night~ which we all know means they have some deep talks and flirtation. Eric learns about the real Emma – how she keeps her favorite childhood cookies in her desk drawers and things of that nature. In the middle of all the flirting, Landon arrives with a puppy (whose purpose is to make Emma de-stress) and to offer to take her to dinner, Yeah so Landon is so done with having to maybe listen to Emma talk about her actual life stressors that he brings a distraction puppy. Luckily Emma tells him she’s busy, uh hi, SAVING HER STORE and he acts offended because he’s a 4/10 in every way possible. To make him feel better, Emma tells him that the two of them should do a double date with Jane and her disinterested fiancé. So Landon agrees to a high-stakes family double date, but won’t listen to Emma’s daily problems. MAKES SENSE.
Anyway, they’re still scanning all those books, and we learn that Eric has practical hobbies like cooking. He also says that he thinks understanding and love come from a true connection, not from cliché romance, which is the most real thing Hallmark has ever said. They end up sleeping at the store, only waking up when a worried Jane and fiancé show up. Getting caught sleeping anywhere together is romance 101, so I love this. However, Landon is quickly brought up by Jane, and Eric is finally done – he says he has to go back to Aspen to figure out some things for a few days, but that he’ll be back to make sure the cookbook signing goes smoothly.
It’s double date time – it goes fine, it’s just boring and Landon pays for everything again. Once it’s over, Landon and Emma walk for a bit and Emma starts talking about all the things she needs to do for the book signing, and Landon is STILL rude and not having it. He thinks he needs to be more important than work for her, but hello, her store is LITERALLY ON THE BRINK OF CLOSING and she knows NOTHING ABOUT HIM. Then he’s annoyed that he had to “share her with her sister” on this date, in which case, why did he even agree to this date??? He’s officially a 0/10.
While Emma’s doing more work for the book signing, she opens her desk to find that Eric filled it with her favorite childhood cookies before leaving. SEE, real romance, just like he said! And to really give us the side-by-side comparison, Landon sends over some apology flowers that are pretty lame and Emma is not loving them.
Eric shows up, like he promised, wearing a cute sweater (see, the sweaters always win in the end!) to help finalize details for the signing. He brings with him a gift for Emma – an old edition of Emma, the book she’s named after, which is again, actually romantic. Emma had plans to eat dinner with Jane, but Jane cancels because her fiancé FINALLY wants to plan their wedding (that’s in a few weeks) so Eric offers to make her dinner at the store. He manages to make a cute little dinner from the boxed meals in the bookstore’s cafe. He says that he can teach Emma how to cook at his place some time, and that “it’s a date,” which freaks out Emma – she’s still technically dating Landon! Eric takes this rejection like a champ, but now at least Emma knows he’s interested in her.
Emma goes home and sees Jane – turns out her fiancé took a contracting job last minute instead of planning the wedding, rude!!! Jane, upset and venting, tells Emma that if someone really loves you, they should care about the things that interest you, which for Jane is planning a wedding, and for Emma is saving her bookstore. This FINALLY clicks for Emma – Landon legit hates when she talks about her bookstore, which is both her passion and her livelihood, aka THAT’S NOT REAL LOVE.
It’s finally book signing day and it goes perfectly – lots of people show up, Emma makes a nice speech, it’s all good. Eric is there too, he gives her a pep talk and tells her she’s beautiful. But of course, just as Eric is about to go up and congratulate Emma on the successful event, Landon shows up, walks up to her and kisses her. I don’t even need to tell you how much he is the worst dude at this point. Eric obviously leaves because he’s a human with a heart.
The next day, Landon sends flowers AGAIN (enough dude, are you like IN the flower business??) and Eric sends the puppet theater – both sweet but also a show that he lost the bet because he thinks Emma is still interested in Landon. But she’s not! While going to find her sister at the park because Jane ran away from her awful fiancé (again, a subplot that doesn’t really matter) she stays in the park and calls Landon to meet her there to break up. FINALLY GIRL, YES, best decision of the movie.
Anyway, the fiancé, Greg, apologizes to Jane for being so absent. Turns out he was taking all these jobs and not able to plan the wedding because he wanted to pay for a new engagement ring for Jane. So the wedding is still on! On the day of the wedding, Emma blogs in a not so subtle way about how Landon wasn’t the right guy for her, how Eric is her true match and how they have a real connection with real romance. Eric, being on top of his job and reading this blog because he loves her, sees this post and rushes to the wedding. He shows up right as the reception is starting, walks straight up to Emma and they have a big romantic kiss! I wasn’t really rooting for anyone in this movie, and I was STILL excited about this ending kiss!
So there we have it: the business was saved, Jane got married, Landon got dumped, and Emma and Eric got together. It was a cute movie, but frankly, none of the guys were cute, so I’m going to have to give this a 4/10, just like Landon.