I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
January has lived her life with an open heart and rose colored glasses. Her mother's scares with cancer taught her to hide her fears while the way her parent's loving and romantic relationship taught her that outpouring happiness and love made life glow. When her father dies and a big secret is revealed, she can't manage to see only the glow in life. Her boyfriend dumps her and with her writing career in danger, January takes off to Michigan to come to terms with who she thought her father was and try to get her life back on track. When her next door neighbor turns out to be college rival and crush Augustus Everett, she winds up getting in a pseudo competition about who can write the best book in the other's genre. January's trying to come to terms with the past and she might just build a future while doing it.
From now on, it was the ugly truth or nothing.
Beach Read is a standalone contemporary that melded women's fiction and romance together perfectly. Told entirely from January's point of view, the reader is brought into her life as it's falling apart. January had a good childhood but not a perfect one, her mother had two cancer scares but the way her father showed his love for the family and constantly romanced her mother, taught January that love and happiness makes everything better. A little later in the story we learn that January's parents did have a couple month separation and it becomes apparent that while January knew there were cracks in her ideal world, she glossed them over. I liked how the author flushed out this trait of January's, not simply having her be a head in the clouds happy but having this aspect of January's develop in part to being a child who had a parent with cancer and emotionally deciding to keep in complicated feelings because you want every moment with them to be “happy”.
I wanted to know whether you could ever fully know someone. If knowing how they were—how they moved and spoke and the faces they made and the things they tried not to look at—amounted to knowing them. Or if knowing things about them—where they’d been born, all the people they’d been, who they’d loved, the worlds they’d come from—added up to anything.
The core of the story is January coming to terms with the fact that her father cheated on her mother and had a mistress, which she doesn't find out until after her father has died. The swirling emotions of January are felt, the anger, the disillusionment, and the pain. Her mother knew about the mistress but doesn't want to speak to January about it and while I liked this no easy, messy, tangle of emotions from two characters, I wish we could have gotten more from and between January's mom and her. This seemed like such an important relationship for January and it wasn't worked out enough for me. I did like how Sonya, the woman January's father had been involved with, became a fully fleshed out character and their relationship wasn't black and white.
The worst part of being college rivals with Gus Everett? Probably the fact that I wasn’t sure he knew we were. He was three years older, a high school dropout who’d gotten his GED after spending a few years working as a literal gravedigger.
I'm typically am not a fan of only one pov in a romance but it worked for me here, possibly because of the women's fiction aspect and probably because the author was able to convey Gus (Augustus) as solid, well rounded out character who's emotions I could grasp on page. From the moment January is angry at her next door neighbor grump to when Gus tells her “I lied,” he whispered against my ear. “I have read your books.”, these two sparked and burned. Their past relationship in college and how they misread each other's thoughts and feelings was a perfect bridge to January learning to look into the shadows and Gus discovering that he can bring light to the dark. I enjoyed their wit and snark that had such an ease to it; they weren't “on” for each other, it was just their chemistry. I did think at times their cutesy knee bumping while sitting felt a bit juvenile but overall I liked their friendship and that had me believing in their love.
“I don’t need you to be Fabio,” I said, voice thick with emotion, like it wasn’t the single stupidest sentence I’d uttered in my life.
This had me chuckling and my eyes misting, the emotion is felt but with more of tingle and lightness, rather than diving into the trenches with it. As I mentioned, I wish we could have gotten more in regards to January and her mother's relationship and felt the same way with January and her bestfriend Shadi, who ended up feeling more like a guest star than integrated into the story. However, the relationship between January and Gus amused and attracted as they waded through their own issues and each others. If looking for a great blend of women's fiction and romance, Beach Read would be a perfect pick.