My wife reads around 100 books a year. At the end of each year, she picks five or 10 of those for me to read. They’re usually some of my favorites each year – it’s almost like she knows me.) One of her choices for me this year was Emily Henry’s Beach Read, which was a Book of the Month Club choice and would probably be a great movie with the right cast. It’s a “grumpy sunshine”-styled rom-com, although it doesn’t fit squarely in the rom-com subgenre. There are plenty of lit-fic elements to keep the grumps (me) as interested as the sunshiney folks (her) who loves rom-coms. But I also love rom-coms, so maybe I’m biased.
Our hero is January, a published rom-com writer who is politely and sunnily falling apart. Her long-term romantic relationship just ended, writer’s block is patiently waiting to end her career, and the unexpected death of her father has her questioning everything she thought she knew about her family and even the idea of love. Her dad’s lawyer sent her the keys to a beachhouse on Lake Michigan, in the quiet little town where her dad grew up. With nowhere to live and nothing to do, she packs up her compact car and basically camps out in the strange house.
Her nextdoor neighbor is a literal Grumpy Gus (his name is Gus and he is grumpy – great job Emily Henry!!). A loud weekend party at his house leads to a confrontation across their back porches. That’s when she realizes who Gus is – a frienemy from her English department way back in college!
Gus was always kind of a mess, but he is in a state of disarray even for him. He’s also languishing in career and life. They come up with a deal – he will write his version of a rom-com and she will write some navel-gazing lit-fic. They’ll meet up on weekends to do research tours for their genres.
You can probably guess the rest, but what bumps this from a pleasant three-star to a four-star is the fully-formed humanity of the characters. They’ve seen some real-life and they’re trying to figure out what to do with. They’re biggest problems aren’t the will they-won’t they question, but what to think about trying in life and how much to expect.