I was recommended this book by a friend who doesn’t generally read romance—but she said it was smart and interesting. And she was right. It was very good, definitely right up my alley.
January Andrews is a romance writer who’s gone through quite the rough patch and is currently in need of a completed book manuscript. What she’s got is nothing. She inherited her father’s illicit love nest when he died and she discovered he’d had a mistress. She wants to sell it, so she thinks she’ll accomplish both her goals at once: she’ll head out to the house on a Michigan lake for the summer and get it ready to sell, and hole up and write her manuscript.
January’s old college rival and crush, Augustus Everett, is a famous literary writer also experiencing a bout of mild writer’s block. He’s also her new next-door neighbor at the lake. When the two are reunited at the local bookstore/coffeeshop, it doesn’t go well. He is dismissive of her genre and offends her right away, and then, to my great amusement, she asks him:
What’s it like writing Hemingway circle-jerk fan fiction?
He doesn’t really know what to say to that.
They really don’t get along. But after they both get tricked into attending a book club that is about neither of their books, he drives her home and they warm up just a tiny bit. Then they decide to challenge each other with an odd deal: she will teach him how to write romantic fiction and he will help her lose the happy ending so she can write bleak literary fiction. They’ll help each other with lessons. January will go with Gus to his interviews with survivors of a local cult whose encampment was burned down by its leader. And she will educate him in the ways of rom-coms. What these little lessons amount to are some weird almost-dates, but they relax around each other and start really making progress on their books.
They also get closer. Each of them is damaged, though January is a little oblivious to Gus’s situation for a while (and Gus is just a little oblivious in general). But eventually all comes to light and they finally see each other clearly, leading to another satisfying conclusion.
Like my friend said, this is a smart romance with characters with great depth. It’s well-plotted and should make any fan of feminist contemporary romance happy.