I think I need to start this review off with a disclaimer of sorts. This isn’t my genre, so take my opinion on this book with a grain of salt. Seriously.
Beach Read is a modern romance by Emily Henry. I don’t read romance, it’s not really my thing. I know what you’re thinking: “Didn’t you recently read (and love) a book called Tweet Cute?” and yes. Yes, I did. Somehow it’s different, I can’t explain it. Tweet Cute is more of a YA coming of age story set against a backdrop of romance. Beach Read is an adult romance. Different things.
I wouldn’t have selected this book to read. It came highly recommended (and lent) from a good friend, who is also a writer. If you enjoy the romance genre, her review would probably be a more accurate representation of this book. Click Here to check that out.
This intro makes it seem like I’m about to bash this book, which isn’t the case. Or maybe it is. Keep reading to find out.
Beach Read focuses on two writers who write wildly different books who spend the summer living next to each other in beach houses on a lake in Michigan. In one house, you have the popular romance novelist January who is in a bit of a slump after personal tragedy and revealed family secrets. In the other house is the brooding Augustus, in a bit of a slump of his own while he tries to write the next great American novel. They’re both broke and trying to power through writer’s block when they strike a deal to switch genres.
It seems like the plot in a romance novel isn’t really the point. Maybe that’s my ignorance of this genre, but it seems like the plot is more to get the characters to do something. Anything. I guess until they…do each other…(that’s the only one, I promise).
That being said, I appreciated this plot. It forced a fun and interesting dynamic between the characters. It gave them something to focus on that was also about each other. Being a writer myself, I enjoyed the look at writer’s block the plot afforded. I wonder how invested in the plot a non-writer might be, though. I loved seeing the themes of imposter syndrome and fear surrounding a book explored, but would someone whose never tried to write a book resonate as well with that? I guess that isn’t for me to say and since this book is a best-seller, I’d guess probably.
My only complaint with the plot is the side plots. Emily Henry sneaks a few different side plots into Beach Read and most of them felt somewhat rushed to me. January deals with a lot of family baggage that forms the backdrop of this story, but I don’t know that Henry properly dealt with all of that. It felt like a bit of a distraction. The same can be said with Augustus’ issues that he deals with. It seemed like a ploy to give the characters some depth that they didn’t need.
Honestly, the setting was one of my favorite parts of Beach Read. That is most likely do to my dream of one day living and writing in a lake house.
The sleepy town in Michigan formed the perfect back drop for this story. I loved the quirky bookstore/coffee house. The beach that we actually spent very little time on. The intimate yet connected houses. Everything worked from a setting perspective.
I wish I lived in one of those houses, honestly.
And now the point of a romance: the characters.
The side characters in Beach Read were some of the best I’ve read recently. I loved Augustus’ aunts and I loved January’s best friend. For characters who weren’t the main focus of the book, they were developed so well and were so distinct. They didn’t feel like filler characters at all, which can sometimes happen with side characters. They were real and not there only to do a job.
However, I didn’t love the main characters as much as the side characters. Which feels like a major bummer.
I could never fully put my finger on Augustus. I finished the book not sure what was going on with him. He seemed to bounce around a few different personalities, whatever fit the plot point. But all in all, he was a deep character with personality.
Sometimes I loved January, sometimes I didn’t understand her. At times, her emotions pin-balled in strange directions that I couldn’t keep up with. She turned on a dime and was all over the place, again to fit whatever plot point Emily Henry needed to fill at that moment. If she needed them to have a deeper conversation where some secrets were revealed, January would inexplicably go into an emotional tailspin to facilitate that conversation. One particular scene outside of a bar is front of mind as an example for this. I’m not opposed to that, I just wish I could see it coming more. I wanted to ride the waves of January’s emotions with her, instead I felt like I only got the crash of it.
I can’t be too hard on these characters. They were good, friendly, and witty. I enjoyed their conversations. Their relationship never felt forced, which is the point of a romance. They meshed together while still having tension and drama. I don’t want to be too critical for the sake of criticizing something. They were great characters for this book.
Despite not knowing a ton about this genre, I enjoyed this book. It was fun, witty, easy. Basically, it was a great beach read. I’d definitely recommend picking this up to read on vacation. It doesn’t take hours of introspection to latch on to. It takes you to a fun place, introduces you to great characters, and lets you have fun while they fall in love. I guess I couldn’t ask for more than that.
You can expect a ton of sap, but Emily Henry manages to do in a way that didn’t make me roll my eyes and I guess that’s a major compliment for a romance novel.
I’d give this one a 3.25 out of 5, but, like I said, take that lightly. It might be a much stronger romance novel than that, I wouldn’t know.