Beach Read by Emily Henry | Book Review

Posted May 13, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 12 Comments

Beach Read by Emily Henry | Book ReviewBeach Read by Emily Henry
Published by Berkley on May 19, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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2 Stars

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.

Who doesn’t love a good beach read? This cute summery cover, the fun title, and the unique synopsis had me reaching for some fun, swoony romantic comedy in the sun. While this was a fun book, unfortunately it wasn’t as fun and swoony as I had hoped. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. The first thing I think of when I think about Beach Read is that it’s a lot heavier than I expected. I was expecting a light, fluffy storyline with two authors throwing their witty banter back and forth, all while the summer sun blazes down on them as the waves crash against the shore outside their beach houses. This was not that. We learn immediately that January is reeling from the death of her secret-keeping father. The beach house is the house he owned with his mistress. January finds out about this mistress (whom he was spending time with while his wife, and January’s mom, was at home going through chemotherapy) at her father’s funeral, when said mistress hands her a key, a note, and a teary smile. Holy heavy. That’s a lot to grapple with. While struggling with the worst case of writer’s block ever (because what even is love anymore?), she’s living in his home cleaning out his and his mistress’s things and preparing to sell it. Gus is also carrying a lot of his own baggage. Both characters go through a lot of emotional ups and downs. This book also didn’t feel summery to me. Yes, it’s hot and sticky during the day but no beach stuff really happens. The rom-com field trips that January takes Gus on are highly overshadowed by Gus’s death cult excursions and their own personal demons. The evenings and mornings are cold and damp. I just didn’t get the warm fuzzy feelings I had hoped for with this title.

2. On the flip side, when Beach Read chooses to be a rom-com, it does such a good job! January and Gus have this awesome chemistry. They pick at each other and push each other’s buttons, and the sexual tension is totally there. They spend their days sitting in their own kitchens, which are mirror images of each other, working on their books. If they look up from their laptops they can see each other, through the windows, sitting at their kitchen tables. Even though they both have phones, they choose to communicate by writing notes to each other with sharpies on their notebooks and then holding them up and waiting for the other person to look up and read them. Some of these notes are funny, some are flirty, and some are motivational. This was my favorite part of their relationship, and the book. I thought it was really cute.

3. I didn’t love the execution of January (the romance writer) writing literary fiction and Gus (the literary fiction writer) writing romance. Maybe I didn’t like this because I hate it when my favorite authors make a disappointing genre jump, thereby writing a book that holds absolutely no interest for me. The tidbits of both January’s and Gus’s novels sounded kind of crummy to me. lol. Her literary fiction novel ends up being about a circus, and his romance novels ends up being about a death cult (don’t worry, this is not a spoiler). I would have ZERO interest in both of these books, and I have a hard time believing that this was a good career move for either of them. All for a silly bet. Honestly, I wish this part had been left out. It would have been fine if they’d both just had writer’s block and tagged along on each other’s research trips just for fun.

4. I liked the supporting characters better than the main characters. January’s best friend, Shadi, was my favorite character in the book. She seems like such a sweet, supportive, loving best friend. Throughout the story, a romance is budding in her life, and I loved reading about it. There’s also Gus’s aunt Pete who owns the book store and the coffee shop. Pete is hilarious. January’s publicist, Anya, is a treat and I’d love to read a book about her. Her emails checking in on January’s writing progress were so much fun. She’s got quite a personality.

5. Unfortunately, I never really connected with January or Gus. I liked them, and I felt bad for their heartaches and personal struggles, but I never felt connected to or invested in them. I think that’s why I struggled to get through this book. I’m a very character-driven reader, so not being able to connect with either main character was very hard for me.

6. I did like all the writer stuff. The advance reader copies, the writing process, the writer’s block, professional and reader reviews. That was fun.

7. The death cult stuff honestly made me uncomfortable. It was just too creepy and kind of upsetting in places. If this were in a mystery or thriller I would have been fine because I would have been expecting to feel uncomfortable and creeped out. That’s not what I wanted to feel when I picked up Beach Read, though. I would have preferred more of January’s rom-com 101 field trips. 

8. This didn’t feel at all romantic to me. Gus says some GREAT things that are very swoony on their own, but they didn’t feel swoony when mixed in with everything else. There wasn’t any wooing. I didn’t feel like there were any grand gestures. The cover and synopsis actually seem a little deceiving. The romance is there, and there’s sexytimes… it just didn’t feel romantic.

9. I came away feeling kind of dark about the entire reading experience. The ending wasn’t even satisfying. 

All in all, I’m kind of all over the place with Beach Read. I liked some parts, I was meh about many parts, and I really didn’t like some parts. There was SO much going on. The book was kind of all over the place, now that I think about it. I think my biggest issue, though, is that I couldn’t connect with the characters I was really supposed to love and feel for. I really think that’s where it all went wrong for me. Not being able to connect with them made their story feel very flat and not the least bit romantic. I’m disappointed.

2 Stars
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12 responses to “Beach Read by Emily Henry | Book Review

    • Jana

      Yeah, exactly. I really think if the title and cover were changed to reflect more of what the reader should expect I’m not sure I would have chosen to read it. I feel a bit tricked. It’s not a beach read to me, and I still can’t figure out why the title was chosen. Oh well!

  1. Awww, I’m so sad to see this. This is my current read–I’m about halfway in–and I’m LOVING it. I actually like the contrast of the heavy and light parts of the book. And I’m finding it super romantic. I’m always surprised by how readers can experience books in such vastly different ways, but that’s what keeps things interesting, right?? I hope you enjoy your next read more!
    Dedra @ A Book Wanderer recently posted…ARC Book Review | The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler

  2. I superrr appreciate this review, because most of the reviews I read LOVED it. I think it’s important to realize that while the title is “beach read,” it’s much heavier than expected. So thank you for the heads up! Do you think this reads more like Women’s Fiction than “romance?” (Not 100% sure what the difference is but the lack of romantic elements in your review got me thinking.)
    Aila @ One Way Or An Author recently posted…From Blood And Ash Review by Jennifer L Armentrout | Taking Paranormal Aspects To Another Level

    • Jana

      Thank you! You’re right, most of the reviews I’m seeing are also super positive and I’ve felt like the kid eating lunch alone in the school cafeteria. lol. I honestly think I would have rated this book higher if the cover and synopsis weren’t so misleading. I was completely caught off guard, and that’s not a good thing to do to a reader. I do think this reads more like women’s fiction, but not so much that I’d call it women’s fiction. Does that make sense? lol. It’s not really a romance for me because the tiny romance that was there felt forced and took a back seat to everything else, but it also didn’t have the sweeping stories and character development that I’ve read in women’s fiction. With WF, the story depends on elements other than romance and this one tried to be a romance and failed at it. I’m not sure where that puts it! Somewhere in the middle, under the huge umbrella that is contemporary fiction? I’m not sure. I’d love to find someone else who has read it and feels similar to me so that we could dissect it a little more. I read this weeks ago, and I still just feel unsettled when I think about it. lol. Thanks for your comment! You helped me think through my thoughts a little more with your question. :)

  3. Sorry this one didn’t work for you! I read this one last week and really liked it. I was surprised that I felt so connected to January, but I think it was because I saw a bit of myself in her. I definitely agree that the book is a lot heavier than the cover depicts it to be.

  4. I think this is the first negative review I have seen!! I have been dying to read this one and yet it sits on my “not active” shelf on NetGalley. Sorry you found it disappointing! Wish I could share my opinion on it, lol.