for a different style of romance, for complex family betrayal and love, for a comforting quick read
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.
First things first: I don’t think I’d consider this a beach read. Those are usually fluffier and light with the main issue the old trope where the characters just don’t talk to each other and misunderstand something stupid. This book is not that. In fact, I was delighted that, for the most part, when they were hurt or angry or confused they did address it and talk to each other instead of letting idiocy fester. THANK YOU, EMILY HENRY.
This book is more balanced than that. There’s pain and darkness in many forms. In the obvious ways, like investigating a cult and the deaths connected to it. In January’s pain over her father’s death as well as his newly-discovered infidelity. And there’s pain in more complex ways, in Gus’s search for what it is about him that makes people leave, and even in the way The Mistress has been forced into January’s life. It’s messy, and that makes it feel believable. It allowed me to feel for the characters as they struggled with their emotions. Can you both love and hate someone? Absolutely. That’s something Futurama taught me long ago (#27).
Love, after all, was often made not of shiny things but practical ones.
An accomplishment in this story is making every character feel known. From aunts Pete and Maggie all the way to the mistress of January’s father, I came away feeling like I had a good sense of who they were and their stances on the world.
You might be thinking, so why three stars if all I have to say are good things? Don’t get me wrong: three stars means I enjoyed this book, and I thought it was well done! It just didn’t have anything so remarkably new to me to blow me away. I teared up a bit, but not enough for it to really tie into my emotions. Ask me in a few months and I probably won’t remember the details of this book so much; but I still enjoyed reading it, and would recommend it to anyone who is interested after taking a look at it!
Side note: I’m also a bit annoyed that the official book summary says they have nothing in common besides being neighbors when they also went to college together and that’s an incredibly huge part of the whole story. Seems kind of like a blatant omission 🤷♀️???