#BookTok, 5 Star Reads, Book Reviews, Romance Novels

Review: Beach Read by Emily Henry

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Rating: 5 out of 5.
  • Buy the book here
  • Page Count: 361
  • Genre: Fiction, Romance
  • Content Warnings: Death of a parent

Beach Read came to me, as it should, on the beach. I’d made the horrific mistake of only bringing one book for a day trip to the Jersey shore and finishing it midday. Luckily, my cousin had a copy of Beach Read with her, and it felt too enticing to pass up.

January Andrews is a romance writer who has always believed in love. But after the death of her father, everything changes when she is given the key to his secret beach house that he shared with another woman during his marriage. A grieving January heads to this “lovenest”for the summer with hopes of using the time to pen her next novel and clear out the house.

But when January discovers her sort-of college rival, Augustus Everett, lives next-door to the lovenest, her whole summer is turned on its head. Gus is a dark, no-romance, ‘serious’ writer who has earned much acclaim for his work. Gus and January are both stuck with major writers block, so they strike up a challenge: January must right a serious novel and Gus must right something with a happy ending. The two promise no real romance between them this summer, but with research field trips, book clubs, and messages passed through the windows of their neighboring beach houses, there is a chance that January and Gus will end the summer with more than just finished manuscripts.

Beach Read is for readers that love the occupational influence on the plot of The Love Hypothesis, the setting of The Summer I Turned Pretty, and the journey of escaping life to reconnect with oneself in a novel like Jewels of the Sun.

From the perspective of a woman in a creative writing program, I’ll say the very concept of this novelist romance was, initially, hard for me to grasp. Early on, January explains that Gus was a sort of conceited hot-shot in the creative writing department and even once (gasp) mocked her short story before reading it in workshop. After reading that detail, my instinctual reflex was to want January to stay as far away from this man as possible. I mean, mocking somebody’s short story in workshop is irreparable damage to the relationship. It is the ultimate betrayal. And the concept that somebody could do that to you and you’d ever end up in a relationship with them is sheer fantasy to me. But Beach Read is fiction, so, okay, I’ll suspend my disbelief and accept the Gus redemption arc. Maybe I’m too fresh on the subject, still being part of a writing program today.

This story unfolds in a private world away from writing programs and publishing competition. Gus and January have a few interactions with others –– the ladies of the local book club, interviewees for research, and a smattering of text messages with friends far away. But mostly it is just the two of them together, writing, and this is where a sweet intimacy comes into the story. January takes Gus on romcom excursions to the drive-in and other stereotypical sites to fuel his happy ending story. Gus brings January along on interviews with former members of a cult for research on a dark novel. They share their polar opposite perspectives on fiction with one another and (of course, because this is romance) begin to see eye-to-eye. I wouldn’t go as far as calling Beach Read enemies-to-lovers. This is more dislike-to-lovers, or ‘not your biggest fan’-to-lovers. If you like romances where people just grow together, this is a book for you. This medium-paced romance novel builds backstory and personal initiatives before getting to the romance. But once the romance enters the story, it encapsulates everything.

There were a few cheesy moments –– namely mentions of Gus’s eyes that make no logical sense (how do eyes do things besides look around? and an all-too-familiar description of a smoldering male lead with olive skin (why always olive skin?). But overall, I left Beach Read feeling happy and content. Don’t we want books to make us feel good sometimes? Do they all need to be radical?

That’s not a jab at the uniqueness of the story. Emily Henry does a great job of giving both January and Gus complex backstories and individual journeys that they are working through. The broke-novelist-in-seclusion provides opportunity for rich exploration of how life impacts art. As readers see January’s perspectives shift, we see her open up to new ideas creatively. Her complex personal life does not consume the story but fuels it. She has to make peace with what she has learned about her father if she is going to open herself up to a measure of joy and trust again. I’m adding Beach Read to my shelf of five-star-reads because it hit the sweet spot of serious and sweet for me in the romance genre. Emily Henry works to tie a messy plot up quite neatly with a bow on top, but what’s wrong with a happy ending? After all, those are the stories that January Andrews loves best.

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