“Happy Place” is Truly a Happy Place

“Happy Place” by Emily Henry is an adult rom-com with a second chance romance and fake dating tropes. The story follows a group of three friends, Harriet, Sabrina, and Cleo, from college, which expands to six over the years with their romantic partners. Harriet has been busy with her medical residency when she gets a final invite to her “happy place”—Sabrina’s summer cottage in Maine.

The three friends reunite after being apart for years. Cleo brings her partner Kimmie, and Sabrina brings her partner Parth. They all surprise Harriet with her fiancé, Wyn.

The problem: Harriet and Wyn broke up months ago but haven’t got a chance to tell their friends.
Another problem: they can’t tell their friends yet after Sabrina and Parth announce their engagement.
Harriet and Wyn decide to pretend to still be together for the sake of having a happy final week at the cottage, but they get put in difficult situations where they are forced to be together and dig up old feelings that were buried—or at least that is what Harriet thought.

The story is a non-linear timeline with scenes from Harriet’s college days living with Sabrina and Cleo, the progression of Harriet and Wyn’s relationship, and the other summers at the cottage.
My favorite scene is when Harriet and Wyn get stuck in the wine cellar towards the beginning of their stay together and are forced to be in close proximity. Wyn suffers from a panic attack and Harriet helps him calm down when she doesn’t have to. It’s the first scene we learn about their past relationship and can see they still care for each other.

Henry also tackles Wyn’s panic attack well. The way Henry wrote about it made it seem relatable and real, and it also shows readers that panic attacks are okay and don’t make you appear weak as they are normal occurrences.

The story does a great job of exploring the relationship between all the characters, especially Harriet’s relationship with each of her friends and Wyn. Henry gives the characters their own personalities that rounds out the friends instead of having them be boring and flat side characters. That being said, Wyn is my favorite character in the story. He has a great personality, is charming, funny, understanding, smart, and family-oriented. He is the ideal partner material.

The book also explores how friendship changes as you get older. Harriet, Sabrina, and Cleo used to live together in their college days. After college, the friends went their separate ways with starting careers and reunited each summer at the cottage. There is an underlying fear of them losing each other as they get older, but they learn it’s okay for friendship to evolve.

Overall, this story follows the themes of friendships, relationships, growing up, grief, and mental illness. Henry tackles all these themes well, and it is perfect for college students when they are transitioning out into the real world and are uncertain about what to expect from their relationships, whether romantic or platonic.

The only criticism about the book was the miscommunication subplot. So much could’ve been avoided if the characters just spoke about how they really felt rather than burying it deep and holding onto that resentment. In a way, it does work with the mindset of some college students, but not as grown adults like the characters in this book. However, it does teach the reader to be honest and upfront about their feelings to avoid messy situations provided in the book, which is an important lesson to take away.
“Happy Place” won Best Romance Novel in the 2023 Goodreads Awards, and I feel it deserves the award.

It’s also the perfect read to get into the romance mood with Valentine’s Day next week. Go check it out!