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Contemporary romance isn’t my usual choice of reading matter but after the popularity of Emily Henry’s Beach Read I was tempted by the idea of some witty escapism in this friends to lovers romance. What I didn’t anticipate was how much of a struggle I would find it to the point where it quickly became monotonous and for me both the characterisation of the two romantic interests and the structure of the novel proved a disappointment. Poppy Wright is a travel writer now living in New York and met Alex Nilsen twelve years ago in orientation week at the University of Chicago. Poles apart and having little common ground aside from hailing from neighbouring towns in Ohio they didn’t expect to see each other again. However when Poppy cadges a ride home with Alex the very next summer it is the start of a friendship that blossoms into an annual summer holiday commitment, despite both having separate lives and their own romantic entanglements. But two years ago in Croatia things went wrong and Poppy and high school teacher, Alex, have not spoken properly since. Although Poppy has the career she dreamed of and an enviable lifestyle she is disaffected with her lot and decides that salvaging her friendship with Alex, and revealing her feelings for him, on a final make or break summer vacation is too important an opportunity to pass up.
What follows is an extraordinarily drawn-out story that moves back and forth between this summer and flashbacks through ten previous summers, illustrating the ups and downs of Poppy and Alex’s relationship and following their current tightly budgeted trip to Palm Springs My enthusiasm for the story of this summer was limited and so wading through all of the previous years exploits quickly became tiresome. It also takes well over half the book before Henry even tackles the events of two summers ago which neither live up the billing or I doubt will surprise many readers. The entire novel is presented from the perspective of Poppy who I found a little grating and superficial and whilst I found Alex bland and frankly pretty dull I did feel that hearing his perspective would have added another dimension to the novel. Not only did I feel that the chemistry between the pair was negligible but aside from occasional moments of witty banter they didn’t even seem on the same wavelength. Personally I didn’t find the novel entertaining and was bemused that the pair seemed unable to talk to each other openly and there had been ten years of miscommunication. Although the outcome of the novel was unashamedly predictable from the off, my disappointment was compounded by a denouement that was over in the blink of an eye and felt decidedly anticlimactic.