Beach Read by Emily Henry

4 Stars

In trying times, who doesn’t want a light and airy tale to wile away a summer day, cold drink in hand, far from the reach of the bad news spin cycle? If that’s your escape plan, then Beach Read doesn’t fail to deliver what the title and cover promise—a rom-com so beachy you’ll swear you can feel the sand between your toes, no matter where you read it.

The only thing neighbors January Andrews, a disillusioned romance novelist, and Augustus Everett, an acclaimed author of literary fiction, have in common is they’re both in writing ruts. January’s characters always get happy endings, Gus’s end up dead. Still, that doesn’t stop them from making a pact one lazy summer evening—January will produce a work of literary fiction and Gus will write a romance with the inevitable happily ever after ending. By the end of summer, they’ll each have a finished manuscript. Easier said than done? Of course! There’s nothing like deeply buried insecurities and the physical attraction of polar opposites to throw a spanner into the workings of creativity.

Beach Read hits most of the rom-com marks—it’s well plotted (even with its few too many coincidences); it’s populated by quirky characters; the dialogue is smart; it’s set in kitschy enclave; and the sex scenes are steamy, but not the cringe-worthy. Yet, while the reader is left with the reassuring feeling that our common emotional experiences unite us more than our difference divide us, the darker themes of betrayal and grief are pressed to a point that they threaten to swamp the feel-good nature of the genre. In addition, the je ne sais quoi glue of unforgettable rom-com— characters so unique and endearing they take on a life beyond the page—is sadly missing.

Its few shortcomings aside, throw Beach Read in the beach bag and dig the beach chairs out of the garage. Even if there’s no beach in sight. Even if you’re only going as far as your backyard or the local park, January and Gus are good company for a day away from it all.

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