Tessa Bailey’s new novel, “My Killer Vacation,” is a fun, funny and killer vacation (get it?) from all other thoughts and responsibilities. Known for novels like “It Happened One Summer” and “Hook, Line, and Sinker,” Bailey pulls off another successful romance novel that will surely be a summer favorite.
The story combines the murder mystery genre with romance, which may be a combination that readers don’t see often. The novel’s main character, Taylor, is the reason why this seemingly odd mix of genres works. She is, in many ways, a traditional romance novel lead — brown hair, green eyes and a sunshiny smile to match her second-grade-teacher personality. However, she’s also a fan of true crime podcasts and harbors the need to prove to herself that she can be brave, which is why she hops on the investigation train after discovering a dead body in the vacation home she rented for herself and her brother. Taylor is paired with Myles, a bounty hunter love interest (complete with tattoos and a tragic backstory) who is intent on keeping her away from the investigation and the danger that comes with it. In these two characters, we see how two utterly different genres can come together in a puzzle that showcases the best qualities of both romance and mystery.
The novel’s success lies in its characters. As is the case with many romance novels, the side characters are a blast — especially Taylor’s brother Jude. He’s a hilarious addition to the book, constantly making remarks about the man in his sister’s life, while also being Taylor’s number one defender, protector, confidante and supporter. The scenes with Taylor, Myles and Jude are consistently entertaining because their dynamic works so well.
Taylor and Myles fit the stereotypical “grumpy/sunshine” romance novel trope, but their interactions rarely seem cliché or predictable. The murder mystery at hand allows readers to see them outside of a completely romantic context. They also both have external worries, concerns and insecurities, ensuring that they are not solely defined by each other. A romance novel’s greatest downfall is when its characters are so wrapped up in each other that they forget everything else in their lives, often losing the parts of their personalities that made them lovable at the start. Thankfully, we don’t run into that issue with Taylor and Myles — they do learn from each other and change as a result, but never at the cost of losing themselves fully.
While more aspects of the mystery storyline would have added to the reading experience (more suspects, clues, gore, etc.), nothing felt lost in this book. It never tries to be something that it’s not — even the title “My Killer Vacation” lets readers know that they’re in for a slightly quirky, funny novel that they can just enjoy. That feeling lasts all the way through the epilogue. As someone who typically has mixed feelings about romance epilogues — they’re usually just too predictable or don’t add anything to the story — I can say with full confidence that this epilogue actually had me laughing out loud. I wasn’t left wanting more or feeling a sense of incompletion — Bailey knew how to end her book, and she did it well. She did it right.
Fans of her other books will surely find this novel a fantastic addition to her body of work. She nails the romantic pairings again while still managing to bring something new to this story. Elements of “My Killer Vacation” are similar to some of her other books — for instance, the “grumpy/sunshine” trope of “It Happened One Summer” — but the two books are undeniably varied. Bailey knows how to write hit after hit without having recycled plots or repeat characters. Needless to say, anyone on the lookout for a fun, easy beach read can rest assured knowing that “My Killer Vacation” will check all of their boxes.
Daily Arts Writer Sabriya Imami can be reached at email@example.com.