CW: talk of the existence of a cult in the past and it’s destructive end; cancer, death of a parent
I knew I was gonna love this book when I first saw the cover; I just did. It has the two main characters reading books on a beach and that’s the best kind of afternoon I can imagine, so I knew in my heart that this was going to be lovely. And maybe it was not as “fun” as it’s marketing seems to make it out to be, but it was so much more than I expected.
The writing in this story is just so beautiful and charming that I was completely lost in it and didn’t put it down except for very short breaks. The conversations are insightful, the banter is excellent and even the sad parts are so full of feeling that I was quite emotional through most of it, while also having a lot of fun. I was actually dreading what would come up when the romance genre or women’s fiction is talked about (the genres get enough snootiness to deal with irl), but I was so glad that it never happened and that any discussions about book genres were much more thoughtful and sweet. I also quite enjoyed the setting of the book at a beach/college town, where neighbors can communicate through windows and decks and most locals know each other. However, the one reason I didn’t like the book being perceived as a romcom is because a huge part of it is about dealing with grief and I thought the author handled it with a lot of sensitivity, but it also means that the book tends to be more introspective and solemn than a comedy.
I really loved both the characters of January and Gus, and I think it’s been a while since I’ve had a situation where I couldn’t decide who I liked more. They are the perfect embodiments of the grumpy and sunshine trope, and I thought the author did a wonderful job giving us context for why they are the way they are, and also ensuring that we get to know the depths of their heart. I related to both of them on different levels but particularly with Janie’s belief in true love, romance and the power of happy romantic books in sweeping us away and making us forget the many real life problems we are dealing with. Gus’s belief that no one can love him because of the way he is, is very heartbreaking and I related to that feeling as well sometimes. But I also liked that the author made his character grumpy but an overall nice guy and not letting him fall into the the very common trope of the guy being an asshole because of a sad backstory. They both have issues but they work through them, get to know each other, form a sweet friendship and support each other in their writing and I just loved the development of their relationship from the beginning to the end.
To conclude, I read a lot of amazing romance novels all the time but this book felt very satisfying in a way that I can’t articulate. And I won’t deny that I’m a probably a bit biased because both the main characters are authors. If you are looking for a novel which has a nice slow burn love story, great characters and is more on the quiet and reflective side, I think you’ll love this book. I’m feeling very happy after finishing it and I needed that.