Author: Emily Henry
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Audiobook Length: 10 Hours and 13 Minutes
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.
Beach Read is anything, but the standard beach read. It is an easy read, but there are many complex issues that are explored in this novel. I did not expect to have so much packed into a well-written novel that I wanted to devour in one sitting. Julia Whelan was an excellent narrator that portrays the story of two authors that are featured in this enemy to lovers’ story with many heart-felt moments. I have not read or listened to any Emily Henry novel before, but this book made me curious to check out more!
January Andrews is a contemporary romance writer that is experiencing some writers block due to her loss of faith in love. She wants to believe the “happy ending” exists, but there are moments of doubt that are present in her mind. Despite these setbacks, she is still fairly optimistic about the “goodness” in the world. After her father’s sudden passing, she inherits his beach house on the Michigan coast. . She has a complex relationship with her now deceased father, so she is unsure about now living in his house and the complicated past that comes with it. Slowly, throughout the story, the reader and January journey through her family’s past and a lot of truths are revealed. It is a very emotional journey and I love how it was revealed to the reader and to the character. Everything was done in a more natural manner and there was not a sudden revelation that did not align with January’s character development. Instead, every decision and thought process made sense for the character and it enthralling to accompany her along the way.
Her next-door neighbor, Augustus (“Gus”) Everett, is also a writer, but for a different type of book. Gus typically writes the darker novels featuring anything, but the typical “happy ending.” Their chance meeting as neighbors is not the first time these two meet, as they are formal rivals in college that lost touch through the years. Gus has a complex and darker past with demons that he is working through in his own time. He is a mysterious and sometimes moody character, but he is never mean and cruel to anyone.
They form a bet with each other to each write a novel that the other would usually write – January would write a “Gus-type” story and Gus will write one that is more January’s style. The part in this story that greatly stood out was January’s explanation of the contemporary romance novel. I loved how it is explained to not be the typical story with no substance and a “happy ending” between two characters. It brought to light that these types of stories could feature many topics, be full of substance, and cover darker themes, while still delivering a story featuring a type of “happy ending.”
To complete this task, the two of them plan non-date, dates, where they feature a field trip that would help inspire the other to write their new novel. Their friendship develops slowly over time and is not instant. The entire story is told from the point-of-view of January, so you speculate about Gus’s thoughts along with the main character. They have sarcastic banter with each other while still being open and honest with the other. They make mistakes and then communicate how best to move forward. Both characters go through a lot of character development that each match their individual selves, which I love in any novel as development is mainly enjoyable if it actually makes sense for the character.
Overall, this story covers many topics from dysfunctional families to grief to the inclusion of an enemy to lover romance with many others in-between. I loved the rivalry between Gus and January and they were just a joy to read about as I listened to their story. The audiobook gave an extra bit of emotion to many scenes in the novel and I love that I took a chance to listen to it. The two characters were complete opposites and they came together to try to understand each other. They fought for their own beliefs and were sometimes reluctant to change, but they grew to accept some overtime. It is very relatable as everyone can be resistant to some (or all) changes over time, but the only way to grow it to be open to the possibilities. I’ve read/listened to many romcom type stories, like this one, that covered deeper topics, but this one is definitely a top contender for how to do these types of stories well. An excellent novel by Emily Henry that will not be my last!