Published by Penguin, 20th August 2020, 368 pages, 99p (kindle)
Don’t be fooled by the bright ‘n’ breezy cover design and the catchy title. This is a ‘women’s fiction’-romance crossover with an edge. What do I mean by that? Emily Henry manages to balance cosy and light with razor-sharp flirting, intense love scenes and dark tones, making it much more than a jolly ‘romcom’. It’s a fiery force to be reckoned with and will be more sizzling than this year’s impending heatwave.
The plot is a hate-to-love one (my favourite) with a binding pact. Bestselling romance writer January, suffering from a family upheaval and loss, moves into her father’s old beach house to escape the universe and come to terms with the heavy secrets the house symbolises. As it turns out, her next-door neighbour happens to be Gus – THE Gus from college – arrogant acclaimed writer of ‘serious’ award-winning fiction. The Gus who represents everything she despises whilst also being incredibly handsome and doesn’t seem to remember her. They’re forced to bump into each other in the adorable small town, with charming indie book store and quirky secondaries included. As sparks are fired (or more like delicious daggers), they realise that they’re both stuck with writer’s block and dare the other to write their genre by the end of the summer. Gus will write romance and January will do Hemmingway rip-offs.
I read this during the pre-lockdown commute, once upon a time. I remember that the dialogue was so fast-paced and witty, it flew out of my kindle to prod my sleepy face awake against the pale morning sun. I can guarantee it really is ‘laugh-out’ hilarious. What I love the most are the original jokes that amplify refreshing dialogue. Many authors play it safe for romantic conversations, but Emily Henry seems to have taken the time and care to experiment with new topics. I felt that the pacing did slow down significantly towards the end, especially after the characters have cooled off. As a result, the revelations about her family’s past may have arrived too late.
In essence, it sets the bar for summer romances this year.
Many thanks to Georgia at Penguin for my copy.
Image from Penguin