I think I found my two go-to authors for contemporary romance right now. It’s Ali Hazelwood for her nerdy geeky take on romance tropes that makes me laugh and want to fan myself. But it’s Emily Henry who seems to make me cry without fail. And in a good sort of cry way. In a “I relate to everything you just said here and my god that is beautiful I believe love exists in this world and everyone should be loved” type of way. I thoroughly enjoyed People We Meet on Vacation, but Beach Read to me was my jam. And it’s not just because of the hijinks Gus and January got up to against the bookshelves either. (Though that certainly helped…)
by Emily Henry
Berkley, May 2020
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies
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.
Now here’s something I normally don’t review in full: contemporary romance! After opening up the floodgates of contemporary romance these last few months, I’d ended up settling on two authors I’ve truly enjoyed so far. One was Ali Hazelwood (mostly for The Love Hypothesis), but the other was definitely Emily Henry.
Beach Read came highly recommended after finishing People We Meet on Vacation, which somehow also made me cry a bit at the end of the book. However, unlike People We Meet on Vacation (which definitely has a great setup of past versus present), Beach Read follows mostly a linear storyline of two people who’ve known each other since college, but find themselves at odds on their second meeting. Honestly, the romance itself didn’t so much get me as the relatability of the story itself. What kind of #authorgoals would I be harboring if not to have a meet cute with another fellow author to talk writing with? I mean, this book has this in SPADES.
But what I really loved about Beach Read–and, honestly, this seems to be the case in both Henry books I’ve read–is how realistic the conversations and so day-to-day the drama is. January and Gus feel like people you actually can meet, and their gradual actual falling in love with each other is also something you can believe would happen. It’s also pretty fucking cute, and seriously, reading an Emily Henry novel always makes me believe in love and romance all over again.
It also helped that the story wasn’t always about January and Gus’ romance, but also about writing in general. January is in a rut after falling out of love–she spends most of the time at her father’s beach house struggling to write the next happy romance novel. Meanwhile, Gus is having problems of his own, both in the personal and professional aspects. The two come together mostly by necessity at first–each challenging the other to write outside of their comfort zone–but as they work on their stories, they also share notes, go on research outings, and generally spend time getting to know each other. Honestly, it was like a step-by-step dance, and while I normally prefer something to go horrendously wrong to cause some huge dramatic blowback, I actually loved that there wasn’t one here.
Still, it’s the little things that made me swoon. Which I will highlight below.
Things that made me believe in love again in Beach Read:
- The “Pete Cute” – while this isn’t necessarily a meet cute (it’s clear January and Gus have met and clashed many times before), it still made me giggle giddily that we as readers finally get to see them interact with each other face to face, and of course they do so at the bookstore.
- The “I Write Happy Endings Because” – January gets into the reasoning for why she actually writes happy endings–something that Gus has been critical about when it comes to her stories–and it always tears my heartstrings thinking about it. It’s not so much because the reasoning is super unique or truly unsurprising, but to see it written straightforward in text just made my heart swell with pride.
- Chapter 13 – It was literally one sentence, but it told you everything. IF YOU KNOW YOU KNOW.
- Note-writing – Seriously, they both have mobile phones, but January and Gus practically INSIST on writing notes to each other from across their respective beach houses. At first the exchange had been mostly quotes from movies and books, but eventually it became one of the main ways they converse with each other during the weekdays.
- The Research Outings – While much of Beach Read is light-hearted, there are heavy themes surrounding a few characters as well. Gus writes tragedies for a reason, and on his research days, he has January accompany him through interviews with ex-cultists. Gus also later opens himself as to why he writes the stories he writes, and it’s clear that there is trauma there. While I had previously shied away from such heavy material in Colleen Hoover’s It Ends with Us (which I had DNFed), Henry writes it through a more hopeful lens.
- The Dates – I couldn’t tell you which was my favorite of January’s planned dates. Each was loads of fun to read. While the line-dancing definitely lives in my head rent-free, the very first “date” at the carnival fair set the entire relationship off really well. The fact that January and Gus end up spending most of that date creating stories for some of the fair-goers was endlessly fun to read.
- The Clichés – Oh come on. “Promise not to fall in love with me.” Yes, it’s not an original quote, but my goodness, it works in conjunction with Chapter 13, and any time January refers to herself as a “dumb bunny.”
- August Everett’s Effing Bookshelves – These bookshelves deserve their own bullet-points. And thensome. Yowza.
- THAT MOTHER-EFFING SPEECH – I’m shedding happy tears again. I don’t even know why.
- “Happy for Now.” – AGAIN WITH THE PRETTY WORDS. Who needs a Happily Ever After when you can just be HAPPY. FOR. NOW.
Fairly certain I can gush some more about this book. I had initially listened to this book as an audio, but I’ve since bought myself a copy because I need to at some point re-read and find my favorite bits once more. Clearly for annotation. Yes.
5 out of 5 cookies! Honestly, I don’t know how Book Lovers is going to top this, but that’s the next Emily Henry book I’m about to tackle, and boy oh boy, just from the first few chapters, I’m already loving that too!