Blurb from Goodreads
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 neighbouring 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.
For me ‘Beach Read’ was very much a slow burn in that it took a little while to get going but by the end I was utterly transfixed by the story and the characters.
What I truly loved about the book however was the premise and the theme of romance fiction running through it.
In book circles there are books called fiction and books called women’s fiction… and what’s the difference? Simply the preferred gender of the author. Men write fiction which both men and women will read. But women write women’s fiction which could only appeal to other women. Somehow there is an air of snootiness about what it is that men write versus what women write. ‘Beach Read’ plays with this idea as it follows two writers who agree to swap genres and try to write books outside their typical genres.
January writes novels with happy ever afters and swoony romantic themes whereas Gus is a literary fiction author whose writing is more grey in tone. But when the pair meet as adults (they knew each other briefly at uni) one summer both are stuck in a rut battling writer’s block and personal demons.
January is dealing with the death of her much loved father but is also struggling to come to terms that her picture perfect family was not as flawless as she believed as her father has been revealed to her as a cheat and a man with a second life. Her mother won’t talk about this and the isolation is plaguing January. She doesn’t know up from down anymore. And due to a lack of finance she ends up living in her father’s beach home where he spent weekends with ‘the other woman’.
Juxtaposed with January’s story is Gus’ who lives next door to January in another beach property. Gus is a darker style of character. So much of his backstory is slowly revealed and it becomes apparent that the image of Gus as an arrogant, know-it-all author is entirely inaccurate.
Soon after both characters realise they are now neighbours, the pair come up with this bet that they can each write the other person’s genre and sell the publishing rights. And what follows is a summer of immense emotional connection between the two. Somehow these two lost souls come together and begin to find healing. It could sound cliched and trite… but it’s really exceptionally well written with both characters feeling incredibly authentic!
This book is especially written for people who think that the women’s fiction genre is all sweetness and light with zero substance as this ‘Beach Read’ happily subverts many traditional romance-novel tropes while still remaining true to its origins as a book with a firmly romantic plot. The main characters are wonderfully layered, the prose is engaging and the book is both deeply moving and playfully entertaining.
*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Expected publication: May/June 2020 depending on your geographical location