The Love Boat
Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships Book Cover Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships
Sarah Grunder Ruiz
Contemporary Romance
Berkley Books
November 23, 2021
Kindle, Hardcover

Sometimes a yacht, a bold bucket list, and a kiss with a handsome stranger are all a person needs to dive into the deep end of life. For the last year, yacht stewardess Jo Walker has been attempting to complete a bucket list of thirty things she wants to accomplish by her birthday. Jo has almost everything she's ever wanted, including a condo on the beach (though she's the youngest resident by thirty years) and an exciting job (albeit below deck) that lets her travel the world. Jo is on track until a family tragedy turns her life upside down, and the list falls by the wayside. But when her two nieces show up unannounced with plans to stay the summer, they discover her list and insist on helping Jo finish it. Though the remaining eight items (which include running a marathon, visiting ten countries, and sleeping in a castle) seem impossible to complete in twelve weeks, Jo takes on the challenge. When she summons the courage to complete item number five--kiss a stranger--and meets Alex Hayes, all bets are off. As her feelings for Alex intensify and Jo's inability to confront difficult emotions about her family complicates her relationships, she must learn to quit playing it safe with her heart before she loses what matters most.

I should probably start this review by admitting that I am a biased reader: Sarah was one of my first students many, many years ago. Bias aside, I can say that even as a high school junior, she had a certain spark about her communication style that promised great things to come. The fact that that spark was apparent even in AP U.S. History essays illustrates just how special her writing is and made me all the more eager to read her book, despite the fact that romance is not usually my genre of choice. With that admission out of the way, I feel confident in recommending this book to everyone I know, because it truly is a laugh-out loud romantic comedy, that doesn’t shy away from also being a more serious, and very relatable chronicle of how difficult it can be to overcome past traumas and claim the life that one deserves.


On the surface, Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships is about the journey that the main character, Jo, embarks on to reclaim her life and identity after a breakup with a narcissistic slime ball. She creates a list of thirty things to accomplish in the year before she turns thirty, such as getting a tattoo, skydiving, and sleeping in a castle. She is well on her way to completing her tasks, when tragedy strikes, and Jo is confronted by how her past traumatic experiences, relating to the loss of her father, have colored her current relationships, and world view. She begins to also see how her cynicism about love, and tendency to deflect uncomfortable feelings, impedes her from healing, or helping those she loves the most. Naturally, for literary purposes, it doesn’t hurt that her journey becomes intertwined with a man who is both extremely attractive, and unfailingly kind, that also happens to be working through some emotional conundrums of his own. What I really loved about this book, is that each character is lovingly drawn and developed, with perfectly nuanced individual plots that blend seamlessly together to form a true coming-of-age tale, that is just as applicable for sixteen-year-olds as it is for thirty-year-olds. An additional plus: the romantic tension is a slow burn, with just enough naughty moments to drive the plot, while not making me blush or feel uncomfortable (again, making it easy to recommend to just about anyone). And finally, the three teenage protagonists are a pure delight, and serve as a reminder of just how much the young people in our lives look up to us as they mold their own personalities and form viewpoints on the things that matter most

Beach couple kissing sunset | Beach pictures, Couple beach, Sunset

I sincerely hope that this will be the first of many stories that Sarah publishes; she has the potential to be the next great, young voice, in literary fiction. Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships is guaranteed to make you laugh, to make you cry, and to make you nod your head with sage agreement over the life lessons learned by Jo and her motley group of friends and family.

This book earns my heart-felt endorsement and is more than deserving of five stars.