Published by Berkley on May 19, 2020
Genres: Romance, Adult Fiction
Pages: 384 •Format: E-Book •Source: Overdrive
A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.
Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.
They're polar opposites.
In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they're living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer's block.
Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She'll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he'll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.
Beach Read seems to have been everywhere this spring, with it’s catchy yellow cover, arch rival author premise, and promise of a summer fantasy with a beach house setting. It’s usually the type of story I welcome with open arms, and I was thrilled when my library hold came in, confident that it was going to make my best of 2020 list. Unfortunately, while Beach Read did have a lot of positives for me, I just seem to have missed the magic that many other readers found within its pages.
The novel follows romance author January, who is down on her luck and in a writing slump following the death of her father and a shocking family scandal. She’s spending the summer on the lake trying to piece her life back together when she discovers her next door neighbor is her rival from college, a literary fiction author, Gus, who writes basically the antithesis to her stories. After a few meet not-cutes, they decide to challenge each other to write in each other’s genres, and whoever can sell their manuscript the fastest wins.
So, incredible premise, right? I really enjoyed learning more about both January and Gus’ writing style, but there was a lot less of a focus on the stories each were writing than I was anticipating (readers will get more details about January’s manuscript since she’s the protagonist but very little about Gus’.) The romance was OK and I liked Gus and January as a couple, but their attraction felt a little rushed and convenient to me and a lot of the ~issues~ they encounter are just classic miscommunication (or non communication) scenarios that could have been easily avoided. I liked them together, sure, but it’s not a relationship that had a depth that will keep it with me as a reader for a long while.
While I could take or leave the romance in Beach Read, I really loved the world building and secondary characters that made January’s life feel real. I was really intrigued by the family drama and scandal that January was dealing with, as I think many in their late 20s have to learn to reconcile that their parents are not always who they thought they were, and can be prone to mistakes, selfishness, and purely human whims. I loved her relationship with Shadi, her long-distance best friend who is shameless and reckless yet shows up with an unparalleled ferocity when January needs her. I loved Pete and her coffee shop/bookstore and Red, White Russian, and Blue book club. I wanted to spend a peaceful summer night at her book club, chatting about stories, academia, and small town gossip. It’s a shame this is a stand alone because I can see the potential for more stories to be born from this small, lakeside university town.
I also really enjoyed Emily Henry’s writing, and how unexpectedly hilarious January could be, even at her most pathetic moments (purse wine, anyone?) I found her use of juxtaposition throughout the novel to bring a raw realness to the storytelling, even if it ruined some of those idyllic romantic moments (such as litter floating by as you’re kissing the love of your life in the lake). It’s a quality I haven’t seen in many romance novel prose that I’m excited to explore in other works by the author.
Overall: Beach Read is a easy to read romance with some darker undertones and a raw wit about its writing. While not a new favorite for me, I enjoyed the reading experience and will likely continue to check out the author’s books should she write more adult romance.