today’s book: The Happy Life of Isadora Bentley by Courtney Walsh
We are moving right along on our summer-long Road Trip Reads Giveaway where we will be visiting all 50 states on the pages of recently released books. Because road trips are always better with friends – and books – right? So grab your fave snacks, a cold soda or bottled water, an upbeat playlist and let’s head north, to where I grew up!
today’s stop: Illinois
THE HAPPY LIFE OF ISADORA BENTLEY by Courtney Walsh
GENRE: Inspirational Romantic Women’s Fiction
PUBLISHER: Thomas Nelson
RELEASE DATE: June 13, 2023
She’s out to prove that there’s no such thing as choosing happiness.
Isadora Bentley follows the rules. Isadora Bentley likes things just so. Isadora Bentley believes that happiness is something that flat-out doesn’t exist in her life—and never will.
As a university researcher, Isadora keeps to herself as much as possible. She avoids the students she’s supposed to befriend and mentor. She stays away from her neighbors and lives her own quiet, organized life in her own quiet, organized apartment. And she will never get involved in a romantic relationship again—especially with another academic. It will be just Isadora and her research. Forever.
But on her thirtieth birthday, Isadora does something completely out of character. The young woman who never does anything “on a whim” makes an impulse purchase of a magazine featuring a silly article detailing “Thirty-One Ways to Be Happy”—which includes everything from smiling at strangers to exercising for endorphins to giving in to your chocolate cravings. Isadora decides to create her own secret research project—proving the writer of the ridiculous piece wrong.
As Isadora gets deeper into her research—and meets a handsome professor along the way—she’s stunned to discover that maybe, just maybe, she’s proving herself wrong. Perhaps there’s actually something to this happiness concept, and possibly there’s something to be said for loosening up and letting life take you somewhere . . . happy.
This is one of those reviews where my thoughts are swirling every which direction, and I’m going to try to rein them in but probably won’t succeed. Just fair warning that this will likely be a review where I babble on incoherently about how much I loved this story and you’ll be like, “Ok. We get it. Wrap it up” and I’ll be like, “But I still haven’t talked about this or this or this.” So… yeah. This is where we’re at. Lol.
Isadora is a delightfully neurotic and socially awkward protagonist who has Sir David Attenborough narrating her internal monologue and is smart about everything except relationships. Like… with anyone. Not just romantically. In fact, she’s never really had any friends, her parents give her zero emotional support (actually it’s more like negative zillion than zero), and her only significant romantic relationship to date ended in a dumpster fire of humiliation and heartbreak. Because of these things, she isolates herself even from her colleagues and pours her energy and time solely into her work as a research scientist. She’s endearingly irritating but you can’t help loving her, like with a Sheldon Cooper or Temperance Brennan type of character. I adored her. I laughed over her, I grinned big over her and yep I even cried over her. I would almost say that she single-handedly took me on a roller coaster ride through every last one of my emotions… except it wasn’t single-handedly. And that, dear readers, is the beauty of The Happy Life of Isadora Bentley.
When Isadora sets out to disprove the “Thirty-One Ways to Be Happy” article, she never would have predicted that her solitary existence would soon be overrun with people. And honestly, neither did I as a reader. This book took me by surprise in the very best ways. It’s a romance, yes, and whew I’m still swooning over that part of it. But it’s so. much. more. The supporting characters in Isadora’s story make this one of my hands-down favorite reads of the year and my absolute favorite of Courtney Walsh’s books (and I’ve loved all of hers that I’ve read). Martin twisted my heart every time he was on the page, not out of sadness – I promise this is a very uplifting read lol – but because I just adored him so much. I fell head over heels for him, and no he’s not the romantic lead. Darby filled my heart with laughter, her ‘i will barge into your life and force you to be a friendly human’ attitude exactly what Isadora needed even though I would have honestly been tempted to run from her at first. I gave mental standing ovations to the role she played in Isadora’s life and for her refusal to let Isadora quit on her new relationships. Delilah – oh be still my heart. I loved that little girl & related to her so much. And then there’s Cal… but on second thought I’m going to let you discover him for yourself 🙂
Bottom Line: The Happy Life of Isadora Bentley by Courtney Walsh is a truly enjoyable and heart-tugging read from start to finish. There’s laughter and love and friendship … even chocolate and homemade cookies. There’s also an exploration of loss, regrets, and isolation, and after the pandemic I feel like this story is a timely reminder that happiness can rarely be achieved in seclusion. To be honest, as an introvert, I allowed the shutdowns to give me the perfect excuse to hibernate (my default setting) and over the last couple of years I’ve struggled to force myself to get back out and do things with friends and family. Isadora’s journey gave me a lot to think about for my own life, too, and I can’t properly express how much I loved this story Walsh has told.
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 5 stars / in a class by itself!
KissingBook Level: 3+ / will forget to breathe on occasion
Courtney Walsh is a novelist, theatre director, and playwright. She writes small town romance and women’s fiction while juggling the performing arts studio and youth theatre she owns with her husband. She is the author of thirteen novels. Her debut, A Sweethaven Summer, hit the New York Times and USA TODAY bestseller lists and was a Carol Award finalist. Her novel Just Let Go won the Carol in 2019, and three of her novels have also been Christy-award finalists. A creative at heart, Courtney has also written three craft books and several musicals. She lives in Illinois with her husband and three children. Connect with Courtney at her website.
Courtney Walsh is offering a print copy of The Happy Life of Isadora Bentley to one of my readers! (US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What makes you want to read The Happy Life of Isadora Bentley by Courtney Walsh? Have you ever visited Illinois?