Review | Beach Read by Emily Henry

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.

It was just another good day. A perfect day. A happy-for-now, so vast and deep that I knew—or rather believed—I didn’t have to worry about tomorrow.

Despite its adorable cover and sweet-sounding synopsis, I wouldn’t classify Beach Read as a rom-com. It delves into some pretty heavy subjects, including divorce, infidelity, and the death of a loved one. These topics were all handled sensitively and with such tenderness, but some, like the cult research, could be a bit jarring!

I really enjoyed how Beach Read positioned literary fiction, romance, and women’s fiction as equally valid (and important!) genres to read and write. It was so much fun seeing January and Gus try to swap genres, and I loved how the process helped them understand how one another views the world.

January and Gus’ relationship arc was everything I wanted: college rivals-to-neighbours-to-friends-to-lovers, complete with delightful banter, competitiveness, and lots of chemistry. I related so much to January’s tendency to over-romanticize scenarios, hiding any messiness and hurt in an idealized version of reality. Gus’ cynicism seemed to stand in stark contrast to that, but as we got to know him, he showed how sweet and caring he was. Instead of your typical “brooding bad boy,” Gus was someone with a difficult past who desperately wants to do right by the people he cares about.

My only complaint is that the book wrapped up far too quickly. Throughout the story, January and Gus talk through a number of misunderstandings, but the nuanced conversation that I was expecting near the end was replaced with a grand romantic gesture. That being said, I did like that it ended with a “happy-for-now” instead of a traditional HEA; it’s more realistic but still hopeful, which befits a book that straddles the line between literary fiction and romantic fiction.

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