Beach Read by Emily Henry. New York: Berkley, 2020, 361 pages.
A year ago, January Adams’ life was perfect. She had her dream job as a romance novelist, a handsome boyfriend, a cute apartment, and two loving parents whose marriage was inspiration for her writing. She was a classic romantic optimist.
Fast forward to present day when January, single, broke, and homeless, pulls up to an adorable beach cottage that was left to her by her father. A beach cottage she did not know existed until his recent funeral because it was the love nest that he shared with his long-time mistress. Bad history aside, you cannot turn down free lodging and she needs somewhere to hole up to write the new book that her publisher is demanding by the end of summer. Of course, writing that new swoony romance is hard to do when you are heartbroken.
The icing on the proverbial cake is discovering that the house next door is occupied by The Augustus (Gus) Everett, acclaimed literary fiction novelist, and her semi-rival since a college writing course. She cannot quite ignore this mysterious and attractive neighbor and they soon strike up a habit of exchanging barbed comments from their respective porches.
The neighbors open up to each other just enough to admit that they are both suffering from severe writer’s block. In order to help get those creative juices flowing, they decide to switch genres. January will pen a bleak and literary Great American Novel. Gus will write something that actually has a happy ending. To help, they will give each other lessons. January accompanies Gus to depressing interviews with ex-cult members. Gus is treated to stereotypical rom-com outings such as Meg Ryan night at a drive-in and line dancing. This is going to be easy, right?
It is a surprise to no one, except our heroes, that these lessons and neighborly exchanges become more. January and Gus build a friendship that is based on trust, care, and understanding. If they happen to get kicked out of a drive-in for less than family friendly behavior, it means nothing. They are simply being supportive colleagues and leaning into those romance lessons. The end of summer and what happens then is still far away.
This book is much more than your average cutesy romantic-comedy. Our main characters are confronting the wilds of grief and scared of learning how to trust another person. And they do this in such a tender, real, and humorous way. This is a book that will transport you to another place and make you smile. That is exactly what we all need this summer.
For those who are looking for more delightful summer reads, check out authors such as Christina Lauren, Helen Hoang, and Jasmine Guillory.
Amanda Gramley is the Adult Programming Coordinator with the Alamance County Public Libraries. Contact her at email@example.com.