This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links—at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information.
This spoiler-free book review of Happy Place by Emily Henry dives into everything you need to know about this contemporary romance book, including favorite quotes from Happy Place, frequently asked questions, a brief synopsis, book club discussion questions, similar books, other books by Emily Henry, and more!
Content warnings: Grief, death mentioned, sexual content, panic attacks
Happy Place Book Review / Summary
- #1 New York Times bestselling author Emily Henry
Happy Place by Emily Henry is about a newly split-up couple, Harriet and Wyn, who somehow find themselves in every ex’s worst-case scenario: stuck together on an annual weeklong vacation with their best friends, pretending they’re still engaged.
For layered reasons that unravel throughout the book, Harriet and Wyn still haven’t told their best friend group about the breakup six months ago.
This pivotal annual trip marks the last of many things. The Maine cottage they visited for years is for sale. It feels like everything is coming to an end, even in the midst of so many beginnings.
Happy Place is a story about grief, found family, what makes a relationship grow and change, and what it means to let go of a chapter of your life and all of the expectations that come with it.
It’s about all the painful little steps it takes to love yourself enough to let go of other people’s expectations and disappointment. You can see what you really want and actually welcome it—that kind of permanence and appreciation of who you’re becoming.
My Thoughts on Happy Place
Happy Place is a breath of fresh air and a warm hug. It was on my most anticipated books of 2023 list, and I absolutely loved it. Yes, it’s cheesy at times. Yes, it’s heavy, and yes, it’s melancholy. But don’t let that deter you. The ending is satisfying and warm. The setting is perfect. A second-chance, exes-to-lovers, fake-dating-trope romance? Are you kidding me?
Harriet is a surgical resident who’s a little uptight and afraid to lay it all out there in her relationships. She’s a good friend who tends to avoid letting other people see the cracks in her life and tries really hard to feel good enough to the people she cares about.
Wyn is similar to Harriet in some ways, but he tends to hide his insecurities with self-deprecating humor about how he isn’t smart enough or interesting enough.
When the story starts, it’s clear that Harriet and Wyn are two people who care about each other very much but just could not figure out how to communicate effectively and be together.
As individuals, I found both Harriet and Wyn so relatable and likable. Together? The chemistry, tension, witty banter . . . chef’s kiss.
The Friend Group
While I did appreciate the romance, the real treasure was the friend group. I’ve been trying to think of a book that has a similar friend vibe—especially adults in their thirties who’ve been friends for a long time and treat one another like family—and honestly, I couldn’t come up with any.
Maybe it’s because I’m no longer in my twenties, but I found this book and the friendships in it to be so . . . refreshing. I have a solid group of friends from college and the love and realness you see in Happy Place is so spot on.
As you get older and your commitments and priorities change, it gets harder to spend time with friends. People grow apart and move away. You have to be intentional about every friendship you want to flourish.
The reviews for Happy Place are pretty polarizing. I’ve heard a few people say the pacing was slow, but I didn’t feel that way at all.
I can see how the jumped timelines wouldn’t be for everyone, but it worked for me. It really made it clear how Harriet was struggling between her past and her present, trying to piece together what changed.
In this Happy Place review, my only notable criticism is that the lack of communication between all of the friends and Harriet and Wyn was a little annoying at times. It wasn’t quite the miscommunication trope that can drive me crazy, but I did want them to just say how they really felt. Ultimately, I was able to see past it, but I can see how this wouldn’t be everyone’s jam.
A big part of this book I don’t see a lot of conversations about is the family dynamics and dysfunction.
Yes, there’s found family, but perhaps the most authentic part of this book is the way Emily Henry paints those family dynamics: the pain of a child who wants to feel close to her sister but never had the connection. The stress and shame of trying to live up to a parent’s expectations. A desire to communicate hurt and heal from trauma. The fear of repeating mistakes or perpetuating cycles—wanting to run the other way to avoid becoming someone unrecognizable.
It was poignant and strangely freeing to see these characters let go of some of the weight they carried all these years. Letting go of familial expectation often leaves room for starved relationships to blossom, and I’m glad Emily Henry gave us that redemptive perspective.
@molliereadsbooks Why Emily Henry whyyyy😭😭 . . . . #AlltheFeels #bookhangover #happyplacebook #happyplacebookreview #happyplacereview #emilyhenrybooks #emilyhenry #emilyhenrygirlie #bookreview #booktok #secondchanceromance #favoritebooks #randomhousepartner #randomhousebooks #berkleypublishing ♬ original sound – Mollie Reads
Favorite Quotes from Happy Place by Emily Henry
Love means constantly saying you’re sorry, and then doing better.—Emily Henry, Happy Place
My best friends taught me a new kind of quiet. The peaceful stillness of knowing one another so well, you don’t need to fill the space. And a new kind of loud: noise as a celebration, as the overflow of joy at being alive.—Emily Henry, Happy Place
Even when something beautiful breaks, the making of it still matters.—Emily Henry, Happy Place
I rarely said his name, though. It felt too much like an incantation. As if it would light me up from the inside, and he’d see how much I wanted him, how all day long my mind caught on him like a scar in a record. How, without even trying, I knew exactly where he was at all times, could likely cover my eyes, get spun around, and still point to him on the first try.—Emily Henry, Happy Place
Frequently Asked Questions about Happy Place
Who writes like Emily Henry?
Is there an order to read Emily Henry books?
No, there isn’t an order to Emily Henry’s books. They are all stand-alone titles. Many die-hard Emily Henry girlies recommend reading in order of release date. Of course, I’m reading the most recent titles first (Book Lovers was my first Emily Henry book!), and I still enjoy them.
Why is Emily Henry so popular?
Emily Henry has a cult following. She’s popular because her books contain all the ingredients of the best kind of contemporary romance: sweet love stories, a little steam, escapism in a fun plot and setting, characters you swoon over and root for, witty banter and hilarious moments, and usually a PUNCH TO THE GUT in some way. Her books are more than just romance (not that there’s anything wrong with “just” romance).
Where does Emily Henry live?
Emily Henry lives in Cincinnati and Kentucky’s Northern Ohio River region.
What is the best Emily Henry book to start with?
I definitely didn’t read Emily Henry’s books in the recommended order since I started with Book Lovers. Most Emily Henry fans recommend starting with Beach Read or People We Meet on Vacation. But since they’re all stand-alone books, it doesn’t matter.
RELATED: Book Review: The House in the Pines
Book Club Discussion Question for Happy Place
- Ice breaker question: Do you have a happy place? Describe your perfect retreat!
- How do family dynamics inform the decisions each character makes?
- Who surprised you most out of the friend group? Why?
- What did you think about the jump in timelines as Harriet struggles with her past and present? Did it affect the pacing of the book for you?
- So much about the book has to do with grief and letting go of an idea of what life will look like. Did the heavy themes affect your reading experience? Why or why not?
- What was your favorite or least favorite trope in Happy Place? Why?
- Wyn and Harriet have similar insecurities, but they cope with them and handle conflict in different ways. How do you handle conflict? Did you relate to Wyn or Harriet more?
Other Books by Emily Henry
- Beach Read
- People We Meet on Vacation
- Book Lovers
- Hello Girls
- When the Sky Fell on Splendor
- A Million Junes
Similar Books to Happy Place
These titles explore similar themes or are reminiscent of Happy Place in some way:
- Evvie Drake Starts Over
- Flying Solo
- Such a Fun Age
- The Most Fun We Ever Had
- This Time Tomorrow
- Love, Theoretically
Buy the Book
I recommend Happy Place if you’re already a fan of Emily Henry or if you like romance books with heavier themes. If you can’t tell by my Happy Place review, I really think this book is perfect for summer reading. You’ll see by the reviews this book is not for everyone, so make sure the tropes and premise appeal to you before you dive in. I thought it was the perfect balance of sweet, sad, and heartfelt. Let me know if you loved it, too!