Read Beach Read

Read 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.

I both liked and a little bit hated this. There was something about it that felt a little too self-aware, and telegraphed what would happen with a kind of inevitability but not in a good way like some romances pull off. I think there was too much literary sensibility in this, or maybe it’s that it’s about a writer with writer’s block, or maybe it’s more in the chick lot wheelhouse than my taste runs, or maybe that it’s making fun of romance a little.

It’s a romance, following the romance beats, but tonally not quite right maybe? The scenes that I think are meant to be funny and romcom-y were a bit too desperate. The best friend shtick felt obligatory. And the main character really pissed me off at the end with her self-fulfilling behavior. I thought the premise sounded really fun but it didn’t live up to the fun book I was hoping for — it was too serious and navel-gazing and preemptively dramatic to let the fun parts loose.

The author says in her afternote that she hadn’t thought of herself as a romance writer before this book, and I wonder if she maybe still has some cognitive dissonance around romance, and does want her romance to seem more literary than other romance. A book club question prompts, how does this subvert romance tropes? And I wonder if she did set out to make her romance somehow higher brow than other romance… even the quote on the cover calls this “a breath of fresh air” that it is so smart and perceptive… It doesn’t say it, but is that meant in comparison with other romance?

And also the character names Augustus and January make me want to hork.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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