the book cover for Love at First by Kate Clayborn
  • STAR RATING:  3.5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 309 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: February 23, 2021
  • PUBLISHER: Kensington
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Grief, Death of parent, Medical content, Abandonment
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Beach Read by Emily Henry


Sixteen years ago, a teenaged Will Sterling saw—or rather, heard—the girl of his dreams. Standing beneath an apartment building balcony, he shared a perfect moment with a lovely, warm-voiced stranger. It’s a memory that’s never faded, though he’s put so much of his past behind him. Now an unexpected inheritance has brought Will back to that same address, where he plans to offload his new property and get back to his regular life as an overworked doctor. Instead, he encounters a woman, two balconies above, who’s uncannily familiar…

No matter how surprised Nora Clarke is by her reaction to handsome, curious Will, or the whispered pre-dawn conversations they share, she won’t let his plans ruin her quirky, close-knit building. Bound by her loyalty to her adored grandmother, she sets out to foil his efforts with a little light sabotage. But beneath the surface of their feud is an undeniable connection. A balcony, a star-crossed couple, a fateful meeting—maybe it’s the kind of story that can’t work out in the end. Or maybe, it’s the perfect second chance…

A sparkling and tender novel from the acclaimed author of Love Lettering, full of bickering neighbors, surprise reunions, and the mysterious power of love that fans of Christina Lauren, Sarah Hogle, and Emily Henry will adore.

It’s no secret that I fell completely head-over-heels in love with Clayborn’s Georgie, All Along. So it really should be no surprise that I’ve committed to trying to read her entire backlist. Georgie was so good, that surely it wasn’t a one off, right? Some of her other books have to reach the same level of absolute perfection. At least, I hope so. I started off my journey through Clayborn’s backlist with Love at First, and while I did like it, it definitely was no Georgie, All Along.

I think the biggest issue I had was that the main characters weren’t enough. Nora and Will were interesting, but they were very ordinary. Nothing really pushed them forward into that romance character sphere, if anyone understands what I mean. They just seemed like people, which I’m sure some people out there will appreciate. A romance book about normal people! Normal, but with a dash of mental health issues, and parental abandonment. (Which woof did I want to grab both of their sets of parents and just shake them. How dare you??) Anyway, I really did like Will — he was trying his hardest not to repeat his parent’s issues, to the point of almost pushing everyone else away. I understood his trauma, and I’m pleased with how Clayborn helps him overcome it. Nora didn’t seem to realize she had a problem until it pretty much smacked her in the face, and then she sort of forced herself to get over it.

Nora and Will fit together, but it took a while for them both to be on board with each other. I loved their scheme of coming up with excuses to be around one another — that made me laugh. The steamy scenes were average, nothing particularly stood out as extremely hot or anything. They were cute together, but again, the relationship was just…there?

When it comes to the other characters, they were all interesting, and mostly stood out. (Will’s boss/best friend stood out the most to me? He reminded me a lot of a doctor I used to go to!) I did love the idea of an entire apartment building being a found family, which is sort of the basis of the entire story. It was semi-unbelievable, but we’re in a romance novel, and Clayborn made it work!

I was a little disappointed by Love at First, but I’m not giving up on Clayborn! Not at all. I think I’ll read Love Lettering next, and see where that gets me. Three and a half stars for this one, as much as it hurts to say!

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