Fictional Michigan beach town the setting for chart-topping summer romance


One of this summer’s hot beach reads is “Funny Story,” by Cincinnati-area romance writer Emily Henry, who not only attended college in Michigan but set the book in a fictional Michigan beach town.

The book revolves around two pairs of lovers who split up and end up swapping partners. Daphne and Peter are nearing their wedding date when Peter invites his childhood friend, the glamorous Petra, to his bachelor party. The two decide they’re in love, and the wedding is off for Daphne and Peter and on for Petra and Peter.

Petra moves in with Peter, and Daphne finds herself in the lurch, so she and Petra’s ex-boyfriend Miles become roommates. After some margaritas, Miles and Daphne play the roommates-in-love game, with a fictitious wedding on the horizon to make their former partners jealous.

Throw in some unusual parents, a few wacky friends and Miles’ couch-surfing sister, and you have a “Three’s Company”-esque comedy. Henry also brings the heat — body heat, that is — midway through the book. Her former administrators at Hope College, a small Christian university in Holland, Michigan, would blush.

Daphne is a children’s librarian, and Miles works at a winery. Petra and Peter, on the other hand, have a rich, high-society vibe — you know, boat shoes and pink pants. As you might expect, Miles and Daphne find love, but Henry knows how to make the old saying “too thick won’t stick” play out in this delightful summer read.

Henry has a way of making absurd plots like this believable. Friends I talked with cited similar circumstances with couples they know.

Henry is unlike most romance writers, who bleed for publicity. She lives a reclusive life, never going on book tours or making TikTok videos. She just writes. In an era where musicians and authors share every aspect of their lives online, it’s a refreshing approach.

I requested an interview with Henry, but after some polite emails, her publisher declined. Since two of her books are set in Lake Michigan beach towns, I wanted to ask her several questions: Does she have a place on Lake Michigan? Does she summer here? Does she wear boat shoes?

Elisabeth Egan of The New York Times Book Review recently published a profile on Henry and her writing. What it didn’t include was any personal details.

What we do know is that she’s a tremendously successful romance author who has dominated The New York Times’ best-seller list for several years.

In the article, Egan writes about Henry’s anti-celebrity persona: “Emily Henry has never been on a book tour or done a traditional bookstore reading. She’s not on TikTok. Her Instagram features book covers and an occasional giveaway; there are no closet tours, rescue cats or elegantly plated snacks.”

Egan neglected to mention that a Google search will turn up little in the way of a biography of Henry. Her website says next to nothing, and a short article on her alma mater’s website says she was an English major who graduated in 2012.

Despite that, her newest book has been sitting on The New York Times’ best-seller list for 10 weeks. A previous novel, “Happy Place,” is set to be adapted into a Netflix series, according to Egan.

The article reveals that Henry was previously a technical writer and authored young-adult novels on the side. Her first adult book exploded into popularity despite being published during the COVID lockdowns. I guess it was the right time for a breezy romance novel.

In many ways, Henry’s homebody attitude must make things easier for her publisher’s publicists. Beyond a handful of interviews, they don’t have to bother with complex tours, Facebook updates or much else. 

Henry could wander into a Trader Joe’s, and it’s likely no one would recognize her. She looks a little like Debbie Harry, but she didn’t go for the typical glamor pose in her book jacket photo. She’s got the Cormac McCarthy vibe going for her — he was notably an anti-publicity kind of guy. Of course, he didn’t write romance.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

Connect with us