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REVIEW: Beach Read by Emily Henry

Updated: Jan 28, 2022



“As different as I’d thought we were, it felt a little bit like Gus and I were two aliens who’d stumbled into each other on earth only to discover we shared a native language.”

I read my first Emily Henry novel around two weeks ago and I absolutely fell in love with You and Me On Vacation. So, I immediately picked up her other book, Beach Read. I was expecting something similar: a light, fun, escapist romance novel. And, in many ways, Beach Read is just that. But it was also darker than I expected…


January is a romance writer, a hopeless romantic who writes happy endings.


Gus is a realist who writes literary fiction that lack a happy ending.


When January moves next door to Gus, they couldn’t seem more different. But they have one thing in common: approaching deadlines.


When January moves next door to her old rival, Gus, they couldn't seem more different. But they have one thing in common: approaching deadlines. So, they make a pact, to swap genres and see who can get published first. Helping each other along the way with tips and tricks and research trips, Gus may find out that love is not a fairytale after all...


“At this point, it honestly might be easier for me to pack it in on the upbeat women’s fiction and hop aboard the Black Literary Fiction train. At least it would give me an excuse to describe boobs in some horrifying new way.”

This book had me feeling two polar opposite ways: one minute I was blushing at passionate scenes, laughing and smiling at their tender moments. The next minute, my heart felt like it has been ripped out of my chest.


Starting with the positive side of things, Emily Henry is incredibly talented at writing a steamy, glittery romance. She writes characters that you can’t help but love, and puts them in situations that really show off their chemistry. January and Gus are no exception; these are characters with amazing chemistry, sexual tension, and really give you something to ‘root’ for. Both characters are multi-layered; these are not just bookish types struggling to write their stories, they are flawed humans with emotional baggage looking to be loved. The premise of the book seems simple, like it will be a nice ‘rivals to lovers’ story. But the plot is actually so much more than just this. Both January and Gus are healing from family problems, relationship issues, grief, and other emotional scars.


“He glanced over his shoulder toward my deck doors, and i looked sharply toward my screen, typing the words PRETENDING TO BE BUSY, VERY BUSY AND FOCUSED to complete the illusion."

However, the darker/sadder themes of this book made it less escapist for me; and escapism is the main reason I read romance fiction. This isn’t to say I didn’t like those darker parts, as they are incredibly well-written and make for great three-dimensional character development, but it was definitely an aspect I didn’t expect from the copy or marketing around the book. If anything, it hit a little too close to home, and I ended up crying quite a lot at some scenes about January’s family. Like I say, this isn’t a bad thing, it just made me a little unsure of how I felt about the book. I suppose it shows great writing if you can feel so many emotions!


*SPOILER ALERT* One thing I did find slightly irritating was how intense January’s emotions became. I understand she had fallen in love at a complicated time in her life, but she was very melodramatic and instead of feeling on my seat with worry, I just didn't understand why she was getting to upset over her relationship 'issues' as I could see the happy ending from a mile off. There was just something about the intense emotions for me that could have been turned down a notch.


I do find Emily Henry to be a really exciting writer and I'm really glad I discovered her. I'm looking forward to seeing where her upcoming novel Book Lovers falls amongst her previous work!


Some quotes from the book that I loved:


  • “Or maybe, like me, you’re a hopeless romantic. You just can’t stop telling yourself the story. The one about your own life, complete with melodramatic soundtrack and golden light lancing through car windows.”


  • “When the world felt dark and scary, love could whisk you off to go dancing; laughter could take some of the pain away; beauty could punch holes in your fear.”


  • “As usual, the blank document stared accusingly at me, refusing to fill itself with words or characters, no matter how long I stared back.”


  • “It’s better to be realistic so shit’s not constantly blowing up in your face. And love is way more likely to blow up in your face than to bring eternal happiness. And if it doesn’t hurt you, then you’re the one hurting someone else.”


  • “Rivalry or not, it had been palpable how much we wanted each other that night. We had both been ready to make a bad decision.”


  • “I fought a blush. I didn't understand how he could do that, bounce between being rude, almost condescending, and disarmingly complimentary.”


  • “The more I worked on my love story, the less powerless i felt in the world.”


  • “You know, maybe the reason you haven't been able to finish your book is that you keep asking what someone else wants to read instead of what you want to write.”


  • “That was what I’d always loved about reading, what had driven me to write in the first place. That feeling that a new world was being spun like a spider-web around you and you couldn’t move until the whole thing had revealed itself to you.”


  • “My whole body was begging him for more without any subtly, lifting toward him as if pulled by a magnet.”


  • “I drove us home, feeling like my body was a heat map and everywhere he’d touched, everywhere he looked when he glanced over from the passenger seat, was glowing red.”


  • “It would be an anti-romance. And I was entirely capable of writing it."


  • “He glanced over his shoulder toward my deck doors, and i looked sharply toward my screen, typing the words PRETENDING TO BE BUSY, VERY BUSY AND FOCUSED to complete the illusion."


  • “I didn’t want to feel these things. It wasn’t fun anymore, now that I was thinking it all through, where it would end up - with me attached and jealous and him having shared about as much about his life with me as you might with a hairdresser."


  • “When we weren’t gleaming for each other, I sort of felt like we just worked okay together like we were costars in a movie and when the cameras weren’t on, we didn't have all that much to talk about.”


  • “You know that feeling, when you’re watching someone sleep and you feel overwhelmed with joy that they exist.”


  • “That’s the key to marriage. You have to keep falling in love with every new version of each other, and it’s the best feeling in the whole world."


  • “Happy. Not giddy or overjoyed, but that low, steady level of happiness that, in the best periods of life, rides underneath everything else, a buffer between you and the world you are walking over."


  • “I had set myself up for heartbreak and now i suspected there was nothing nothing i could do but brace myself and wait for it to hit."


  • “Every single person on the planet had to take turns hurting. Sometimes all you could do was hold on to each other tight until the dark spat you back out."


  • “I want you in a way i’m not sure either of us can handle. I dont want to hurt you and I don't want to feel what it would be like to lose you."


  • “Because that was the last new bit of him I could ever have, and I wasn't ready for that."


  • "The beautiful lies were all gone. Destroyed. And i was still upright."


  • "My doctor told me that pain was our body demanding to be heard."


  • "Falling’s the part that takes your breath away. It's the part when you can't believe the person standing in front of you both exists and happened to wander into your path. It's supposed to make you feel lucky to be alive, exactly when and where you are."


  • “Yes, I thought. That is how life feels too often. Like you’re doing everything you can to survive only to be sabotaged by something beyond your control, maybe even some darker part of yourself."



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