Book Review: Beach Read by Emily Henry

Beach Read Book Review

Title: Beach Read
Author: Emily Henry
Release Date: May 19, 2020
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance (but also, death cults?)
Pages: 361
Buy: Indigo, Amazon.ca, Barnes & Noble
Rating: Borrow It

summary book review

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. (Penguin Random House)

Thoughts book review

Who doesn’t love a good beach read? I took one look at the synopsis of this book and knew I needed to read it as soon as it came out. A romance about writers? Count me in. The theme around opposites attract and them being writers of different genres with writer’s block intrigued me. And it’s summer and I live on a beach. This girl wanted a beach read. Too bad his book basically only took place near a beach.

I had high expectations for this book. I expected to absolutely LOVE it, but instead it just sort of fell flat for me. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. Come on, I wanted a beach read! I hate falling victim to high expectations, because talk about a misleading cover and title. Honestly, one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to book marketing. I could rant about this forever, but the book and title need to match the story. You can’t call a book Beach Read and spend more time with a death cult than at a beach. It’s all lies. They rarely ever go to the beach in this book. In fact Augustus, the male protagonist, doesn’t even like it in the summer – he prefers it in the winter. This was not a beach read book. This was a book that took place near a beach. Not. the. same. thing.

Alas, I digress.

This book was a fun read for sure, but it just wasn’t quite what I expected. In some places it was fun and exciting (cue cute Hallmark fair scene) and in others it was just uncomfortably dark (cue death cult scene). Yes, that is the fourth time you have read death cult, your eyes are not deceiving you. This feel good, beach read, rom com has a death cult.

But more on that later – let’s talk about the things I loved about this book.

My favourite part of this book was the banter between Augustus and January. Their relationship was very believable and I rooted for them. They started off as rivals, built a strong lasting friendship, and then became lovers. The progression of this relationship was really well done and I enjoyed reading scenes of just the two of them. They had believable chemistry and the sexual tension was well developed and you could tell they genuinely enjoyed being in each other’s company. 

Let’s talk about the window scenes. They both spend time writing in their own kitchens, staring at the window at each other. In these scenes they send sharpied notes back and forth a la Taylor Swift ‘You Belong With Me’ and the hopeless romantic in me went ‘awwwww’ every time they did it. I also genuinely laughed out loud at some of the things they said to each other. They had a witty and charged relationship with each other and I kept reading out of a desire to see them succeed.

Henry’s handling of emotional issues in this novel was also really well done. She addresses the loss of a loved one and the process of grieving. It’s very raw and heart wrenching and a large part of January’s character arc in the novel.

I also LOVED the writer story line throughout. There were so many elements of the writing world that Henry sprinkled in – signings, book readings, deadlines, agents, publishers, and genre stereotypes. Reading Augustus and January debate the different stereotypes about romance writers and general fiction writers was thoroughly entertaining.

My biggest problem with this book was the tone. I went in expecting a romantic beach read and instead got what sometimes felt like an identity crisis on the page. Part of the book involves Augustus taking January to interview members of a death cult. Ummm, I thought I was reading a romance novel? I got serious mystery and horror vibes in these scenes that really threw off the vibe of the rest of the novel. Suddenly this fun, romantic story got dark and twisty. Having sex in a tent just outside the location of a death cult? It wasn’t romantic, it was creepy. If you came for sex on a beach, you won’t get it. But you will get sex in a tent in the creepy forest. 

While the cult storyline served the plot, it didn’t do much else other than throw me out of the story. I think the author could have picked something different for Augustus that still fit with the tone of the romance beach read. 

Overall, it was a good read as far as romantic comedies go. I loved the premise and quite enjoyed the characters, but the switch in tone made this book miss the mark for me. It didn’t feel like a book read and I fell victim to my expectations when I read this book. If you’re a fan of rom-coms and looking for something with interesting characters and a unique plot line, I would recommend this book, but just don’t let the title and cover stretch your expectations. Or else, like me, you may be disappointed.

Have you read Beach Read? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! Also, do you have any beach read recommendations? I would love more.

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