Cover Love: Another beach read (that is literally titled “Beach Read” haha) that leans into its niche genre with its cover: our two star-crossed lovers lounging waterside with the title holding them apart. It practically screams “put me in your weekend bag!”
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.
What a sweet premise! Two people, opposite in temperament and writing genres, are literal next door neighbors at a beach town in Michigan. They (of course) fall in love, but not without some twisting turns along the way.
This book was a really good balance of dark and light. These are complex characters with some deep hurts in the past. The romance writer doesn’t have a rosy childhood with an example of a perfect marriage in her perfect parents. The literary fiction writer doesn’t write haunting stories to spice up his own milquetoast background. Juxtaposed nicely with the very well-written banter (man do I love a good, well-timed quip) were moments of real reflection and vulnerability. I felt more deeply for these characters in a romance novel than I do with a lot of other works of fiction.
This book fell into the trap that a few other rom-coms that I’ve read fall prey to: the male lead suddenly becoming an asshole after their First Time, then frustratingly keeping our narrator guessing for days afterward. Using a Haunted Past as an excuse to be Mysterious and Brooding and Unwilling to Share. But the characters ended up being nuanced enough that these choices seemed at least somewhat justifiable.
The books-within-a-book thing was tough to pull off. Emily Henry had to describe both a literary fiction book-in-progress as well as a romance for both of her characters to write (for the record I think January tried a lot harder to write a lit fiction piece than Gus tried to write a romance). She had to balance describing these plots just well enough that we understood them and rooted for Gus and January to finish them, and to where their weekly “assignments” for each other made sense, but not so much that they detracted from the overall story. And I think she did that well.
A great romance, wonderful characters, and steamy sex scenes. Ticked all the boxes for me!
My Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 novel drafts