A Novel Proposal

Jul 18, 2023 | Book Reviews

I don’t read on the beach anymore. The wind and sand drive me crazy! So my light-hearted beach reads are more likely to take place by the pool, without any sand.

But whether you prefer the beach or a pool, A Novel Proposal by Denise Hunter is the perfect summer read. Not only does it have all the necessary romantic elements with an idyllic beach setting, it features an author whose publisher tells her she must switch genres in order to succeed—or else. Instead of lassoing another western in which she’s well-accomplished, Sadie Goodwin is forced to write a romance novel. 

As an author, I feel her pain. This is akin to someone dictating that I must write science fiction! Goodbye to familiar settings of the Midwest and North Carolina. Goodbye to the places that stir my heart and easily conjure new characters with all their angst. Hello to the darkness, distance, and cold of outer space and galaxies far, far away. Ugh.

So the premise alone grabbed me. But you certainly don’t have to be an author to enjoy this story.

Be sure to check out the preorder sweepstakes at the end of the Q & A below, valued at $800.

Denise joined me last August when I featured her novel Mulberry Hollow

Thomas Nelson (March 21, 2023)

Back Cover Blurb

When novelist Sadie Goodwin is forced to stop writing westerns and charged with penning a contemporary romance novel to rescue her lackluster sales, there’s only one tiny problem: She’s never been in love.

Desperate to salvage her career, Sadie begins devouring romance novels. Knowing she must devote herself to this confounding genre, she accepts an invitation to hole up at her friend’s beach duplex for the summer. Where better to witness love in bloom than on the beautiful North Carolina shore?

However, once ensconced in the charming ocean-front home with her sweet maltipoo Rio, she finds many ways to procrastinate. First there’s the beach, right outside her backdoor, with all its interesting visitors (research). Then there’s the free library she decides to build and set up by the back deck (She has to do something with all those romance novels). To say nothing of Sam Ford, the grumpy neighbor on the other side of the duplex . . . who she can’t seem to stop annoying.

A social butterfly by nature, Sadie soon gets to know all the beach regulars—sunbathers, walkers, and surfers alike. The free books draw a crowd right up to the house for nice little book chats, which further irritates her reclusive neighbor, to break up her “writing.” But things take an unexpected turn when Sadie opens a recently-placed novel to find a secret compartment—and tucked inside is a beautiful engagement ring. To whom does the ring belong? Sadie is convinced she needs to find the owner and save the man’s proposal from certain doom.

She draws a reluctant Sam into the project, and slowly their connection begins to develop. Are these weird fluttery feelings the first stirrings of love? Has Sadie managed to stumble upon the very subject about which she must write—and wouldn’t Sam make the perfect alpha hero?

Will Sadie find the ring’s rightful owner? And will she manage to pen a career-saving romance novel by summer’s end?


My Thoughts

One of my favorite things about this novel was the heading of each chapter: a tidbit of Romance Writing 101 advice. These cleverly hinted at what was to come. 

To help stir the muse for romance writing, Sadie’s friend offers her mother’s beach duplex for the summer. Far from home in New York City, Sadie finds the North Carolina coast to be the perfect setting for some serious writing. She needs all the inspiration she can get since she has never fallen in love and has no clue where to begin such a story.

Turns out there’s a neighbor, Sam, staying in the other side of the duplex. He’s reeling from a huge betrayal and trusts nobody. He’s purposely staying on the beach to avoid people and recoup his losses. 

Then along comes Sadie with all her spunk.

The last thing Sam needs is spunk. Or people of any sort. But he finds himself  surrounded by both in plenty. Especially after Sadie sets up a little free library which becomes a regular gathering spot for even more people. Which makes him even more curmudgeonly. He begrudges her arrival, her dog, and everything she’s doing.

Where do life and art meet? Where does one end and the other begin? Where’s the fine line? It’s tough telling in this story as Sadie draws upon her limited experience with romantic love—and hew new neighbor—to formulate her romance novel.

This tale has family drama, mystery, and romance playing out through a book mystery, a scavenger hunt, and a destination wedding. Sam and Sadie’s relationship grows naturally and believably. His younger sister is good for some laughs as she bonds with Sadie.

Of course, this story is the happily-ever-after sort, but my predictions about the way some things would shake out did not all happen—which added to the fun. Despite my own notions getting thwarted, the author’s direction proved extremely satisfying. 

Join me for some Q & A with Denise Hunter.

Author Denise Hunter

Questions about A Novel Proposal

This book has such a clever premise with the never-been-in-love heroine needing to write a romance novel. How did you decide on the characters and situations of your heroine Sadie and hero Sam?

For years I’ve been wanting to write a story about a writer who must pen a romance novel but has never been in love. Then when the opportunity to write a beach-set book came my way, I thought it would be fun to incorporate a Little Free Library—I love those things! I knew I wanted my protagonist to find something in the library that would send her on a quest with the hero. Combining those elements made for a solid plot and a story I thoroughly enjoyed writing.

You’ve used the North Carolina shore as a setting in other novels, too. Did you consider any other settings first? Mountains vs. shore? Or another state? 

Since this novel was a spring release, my publisher definitely wanted a beach read. And I’m always happy to escape to the beach even if only in my head. They’re also very popular with readers during the spring and summer months. I do enjoy writing stories set in the mountains also—I have one coming up in September, Wildflower Falls, which is set in North Carolina. It centers around a rancher who attempts to salvage her family farm by hiring a horse whisperer. But when feelings develop between the two of them, his nomadic lifestyle complicates matters. 

You’ve mentioned before (Mulberry Hollow post) that you like to know what the characters want, why, and what the obstacles are, then let them lead the way through the story. Was that the case for this one, too? How did Sadie and Sam evolve during the writing process?

Very much so. I knew the basics about Sam and Sadie—their backstory and what they wanted. Their personalities evolved as I wrote though. It’s similar to meeting someone in real life. You find out who they are by what they say and do as you spend time together. It was the same for Sam and Sadie.

Just for fun—what would Sadie have to say about you? After all, you’re a full-fledged romance author, and she’s a fledgling in that department. 🙂

I’m so different from Sadie! I would go as far as to say we’re complete opposites. I’m an introvert; she’s an extrovert. I’m a checklist person; she’s a procrastinator. I think we’d get along fabulously, though, because my husband and best friend also have personalities which are opposite of mine. Differences are the spice of life. All in all, it was terrific fun to live inside Sadie’s head for a while.

What is one of your favorite moments or scenes in the story (without giving any spoilers)? 

I had a lot of fun with scene where Sam walks in on her while she’s dancing. She’s such a vivacious and energetic personality and I love how Sam adores that about her. 

What’s next for you?

I’m actually running a preorder sweepstakes right now for my next book, Wildflower Falls (book 4 of A Riverbend Romance series). I’m giving away a year of flowers to one lucky winner.! It’s a 1-year subscription to BloomsyBox that’s valued at $800. The contest is running through September 12 and it’s easy to enter. You can learn more on her website here.


Back to Laura . . . On a similar note . . . 

If you like lake, beach, and shore settings, you might enjoy my dual timeline novel, Fifteen Minutes with Mr. Baum. This story spotlights L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Set near Holland on Lake  Michigan and Lake Macatawa, this pre-published novel alternates between 1980 and the early 1900s. Read more and watch the book trailer here.

If you like Southern fiction set in North Carolina or stories about family secrets and small town dynamics, you might enjoy my novel All That Is Hidden. Set near the Smoky Mountains in 1968, the story spotlights the bond of family and the connections of a tight-knit community. Northern exploitation threatens as a father’s hidden past catches up to him and tests family ties. Learn more and watch the trailer here.

All That Is Hidden awards:

  • Winner of the Artisan Book Reviews Book Excellence Award
  • Semifinalist in Serious Writer’s Book of the Decade contest

I invite you to join my monthly newsletter for writing updates, freebies, and giveaways. Sign up and I’ll send you a free gift: www.StandoutStoriesNewsletter.com


Denise Hunter Bio

Denise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 40 books, three of which have been adapted into Hallmark movies. When Denise isn’t orchestrating love on the written page, she enjoys traveling with her family, playing drums, and reading as much as humanly possible. Denise makes her home in Indiana where she and her husband have raised three boys and are currently enjoying an empty nest. Learn more here


Join me next time for a visit with author Sigmund Brouwer.

Meanwhile, have you read A Novel Proposal? Do you have any favorite beach reads or authors? Answer in the comments below.

Ever reading,


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  1. Deena Adams

    A Novel Proposal is on my TBR list! Sounds like such a great read.

  2. Elizabeth Daghfal

    Can’t go wrong with a beach novel, especially with enemies to friends 🙂 Sounds like the perfect way to relax with or without the waves.

    It’s always fun to see when Denise Hunter puts out a new book.

    • Laura DeNooyer

      You’re right–you don’t need the beach or the pool to read and enjoy this one! But I suppose those settings could enhance the reading experience.

  3. Ruth Schmeckpeper

    A Denise Hunter book is a good beach read anywhere, anytime. A Novel Proposal is on my TBR pile. Can’t wait to dig in.

    • Laura DeNooyer

      Hope you can dig in soon! Let me know how you like it!

  4. Laura Dritlein

    I read this book and really enjoyed it. I would definitely recommend it.


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