Book Review: Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis

Title: Eight Perfect Hours
Author: Lisa Louis
Publisher: Atria
Publication date: September 28, 2021
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Romance
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

In this romantic and heartwarming novel, two strangers meet in chance circumstances during a blizzard and spend one perfect evening together, thinking they’ll never see each other again. But fate seems to have different plans.

On a snowy evening in March, 30-something Noelle Butterby is on her way back from an event at her old college when disaster strikes. With a blizzard closing off roads, she finds herself stranded, alone in her car, without food, drink, or a working charger for her phone. All seems lost until Sam Attwood, a handsome American stranger also trapped in a nearby car, knocks on her window and offers assistance. What follows is eight perfect hours together, until morning arrives and the roads finally clear.

The two strangers part, positive they’ll never see each other again, but fate, it seems, has a different plan. As the two keep serendipitously bumping into one another, they begin to realize that perhaps there truly is no such thing as coincidence. With plenty of charming twists and turns and Lia Louis’s “bold, standout voice” (Gillian McAllister, author of The Good Sister), Eight Perfect Hours is a gorgeously crafted novel that will make you believe in the power of fate. 

Do you believe in destiny and meant-to-be? If so, Eight Perfect Hours will make your heart happy… and if not, you may find yourself scoffing a bit, but you’ll still be in for a sweet and thoughtful read.

In Eight Perfect Hours, Noelle becomes stuck in a snowy traffic jam on the way home from an upsetting and disappointing reunion. Sad over the memories stirred up, heart-broken over a letter retrieved from a time capsule, Noelle finds herself a teary mess without phone service or charger while stuck on the road — until a (handsome, of course) stranger offers her a warm spot in his passenger seat and the use of his power cord.

As the two wait out the traffic shutdown together, they share stories, dreams, and laughs, and seem instantly connected… but when the roads clear, they say goodbye and go their separate ways.

Noelle has a lot on her plate in her regular life. She dreams of becoming a florist and has a real gift for flower arranging, but she works instead as a cleaner while supporting and caring for her homebound mother. While she has a delightfully hippy-ish best friend, she’s still lonely. Two years earlier, her long-term boyfriend/fiance dumped her when she declined to leave her mother to follow him to an overseas job. At the center of Noelle’s sorrow, though, are her memories of Daisy, her high school best friend who died in a car accident at age 18. Noelle has never gotten over Daisy’s death, and carries around enormous guilt over something she could not have prevented.

After the traffic jam and those eight perfect hours, Noelle’s life goes back to same-old, same-old, until she randomly encounters Sam once again. And once again, their instant connection sparks back to life — but when she suggests that they keep in touch, he’s not so enthusiastic. Still, Noelle and Sam continue to bump into one another or find out that they’re connected in various ways, and eventually, Noelle becomes convinced that the connections between her and Sam can’t possibly just be random.

Is it fate? Were they always meant to meet? What is it that’s brought them together, and what does it all mean?

Eight Perfect Hours is a touching love story that also highlights the devastating and long-lasting effects of grief and guilt. It also presents different views of love: Is settling into a relationship that’s comfortable enough? How much can a person change their life, and if they have the chance, should they? How does someone balance love, individual happiness, and goals with family obligations and commitments?

These are all important questions, and the author gives Noelle great food for thought as she works through all of her issues and finds ways to address the traumas of her past.

As for the romance, while I really liked Noelle and Sam together, I’m not personally a huge believer in destiny and the one perfect soulmate, so bits of the story started feeling pretty farfetched to me. Still, even the more outlandish coincidences are balanced out by explorations of emotional connection, friendship, and purpose, so I could ignore the elements that didn’t particularly work for me.

On a quibbling note, I did feel like the “eight perfect hours” that Noelle and Sam spent together weren’t fleshed out enough. In the moment, while reading about their initial time together, I didn’t get the full sense of how special it was. The connection between them was described through Noelle’s thoughts and reactions, but I didn’t actually see it. I wish this part had been stronger, but their chemistry becomes more obvious over the course of the novel, so this wasn’t a huge issue, more a minor annoyance.

Overall, Eight Perfect Hours is a fast, engaging read about characters who really moved me. If you enjoy contemporary romances, check this one out!

PS – A quick note on the cover: This is NOT a Christmas book (in fact, the snowstorm/traffic jam takes place in March), and I feel like the cover makes this seem like much more of an upbeat holiday book than it actually is.

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