'Beach Read' Author Emily Henry Picks 11 Rom-Coms for the Perfect Escape

Posted by Sharon on May 13, 2020
Emily Henry has published multiple novels for young adult readers, from her 2017 debut love story, The Love That Split the World, to 2019's Hello Girls, coauthored with writer Brittany Cavallero. Her newest book, Beach Read, is a contemporary adult romance about longtime nemeses January Andrews, a romance novelist, and Augustus Everett, an author of literary fiction. When the two find themselves sharing a property line between their respective beach houses for a summer, they engage in a writing challenge with escalating stakes and learn how to see books, and the world, through each other's eyes.

To celebrate the book's publication, Goodreads asked Emily Henry to recommend her favorite romances that whisk readers off to sweet adventure, even if you read them at home. Beach Read will be available in the U.S. on May 17.

I started reading rom-coms at a time when the world felt particularly dark and volatile. Reading had always been my favorite escape, but nothing I picked up seemed to distract me from real-world stressors, and some of my tried-and-true favorite genres only seemed to amplify my worries.

Then, on a whim, I picked up The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. I was utterly swept away.
I read that book in my favorite way—all in one sitting, still turning pages as I vacuumed, made dinner, ate, not stopping for anything until I reached the end. I was wholly transported to a world much like our own, only a little bit shinier, safer, sillier. A world where Happily Ever Afters are a promise and love really can conquer all. I was instantly hooked.
It’s not that there’s no heft to these love stories—oftentimes there is. And it’s not that there’s none of the truth or emotional wisdom we look for in any other genre either. What makes romance so special to me as a reader is the inherent optimism.
Which is not to say the characters in these love stories are uniformly optimistic. Romance is as wide-reaching a genre as any other, and the characters likewise fall across a spectrum. But when you pick up a romance novel, there’s an implicit agreement to hope. You set aside your cynicism and self-judgment to watch people do one of the most miraculous, strange, embarrassing, intoxicating, and terrifyingly vulnerable things: You watch them fall in love. And in so doing, you choose to believe that, no matter the state of the world, love is a worthy venture. Joy is a worthy venture.
So whether you’re feeling stressed or bored, in need of hope or eager for a joyful escape, these 11 love stories are the perfect getaway.

This delightful pseudo-romance is a charming tale of two people caught within one another’s orbit since childhood, though struggling to find their way to one another. The language is warm, sweet, and fresh. (I think fans of Amy Reichert would love this, and vice versa.) Reading Star-Crossed will have you feeling like you’re strolling down a sunlit street, stopping to smell the flowers. There is also an adorable and very quarantine-friendly form of communication between the leads if you’re looking for a new way to bond with your neighbors!  

This book is one of my all-time favorites. It reads as Bridget Jones’s Diary’s more melancholy cousin, though there are plenty of sweet, happy moments, too. The romance is deliciously slow-burn for a love-at-first-sight narrative, but the real love story here is one between friends. This read will transport you to warm, cozy pubs and the crowded city buses we’re all starting to appreciate a little more. Bonus points for a wintry setting as we approach summer in the northern hemisphere!

Andie J. Christopher is doing something I absolutely love: taking early 2000s film rom-coms and flipping them on their heads. Not That Kind of Guy is, at face value, a redux of the 2009 Sandra Bullock film, The Proposal, but this novel shines all on its own. Christopher has a way of writing thorny, realistic, and ultimately lovable heroines, while her heroes are soft and gentle in the absolute best way. Badass state attorney Bridget Nolan and secretly lovestruck legal intern Matt Kido are no exception. Pick this one up if you're a Jasmine Guillory fan. (And let’s be real: Who isn’t?)

I’m recommending this Sophie Kinsella novel in lieu of just listing out every one of her many novels, but really, any of them will do. Kinsella’s books are my ultimate happy place. They’re frothy, light, silly, fun, and romantic. Her heroines are universally plucky, with a penchant for getting themselves into hilariously awkward situations. Remember when we were able to get ourselves into uncomfortable social situations? Those were the days. Pick this one up to bask in the glow of a new crush and giggle yourself into stitches.

Brimming with fizzy, playful prose, this book has a lot more going on beneath the surface. Chloe has fibromyalgia, and her social life has taken a serious back seat. Meanwhile Red Morgan, the handyman of her apartment building, is learning to trust himself again after a toxic relationship. When Chloe decides she’s ready to venture back out—or “get a life”—she enlists Red’s help to expand her world. A perfect read for fans of Helen Hoang, balancing a lot of heart with serious spice. Best of all, a companion novel following Chloe’s sister (Take a Hint, Dani Brown) will be out in June!

There are oh so many Christina Lauren novels you could escape into, but this one is particularly funny, sweet, and sexy. Josh and Hazel are two complete opposites who form an unlikely friendship when fate conspires to force them into temporary cohabitation. Both struggling in their respective dating lives, the two friends agree to set each other up on a series of dates with mixed results. So not only do we get the electric tension of two people in close quarters, but we also get to vicariously experience dates! Bars! Restaurants! Parties!

This book reads like you took a Jane Austen novel, aged it forward to the Victorian era, and added a lot of steam. Our heroine, Annabelle Archer, is a fiercely independent realist from a poor family. Having determined that marriage is not in the cards for her, she's turned her attention to pursuing an education. While studying at Oxford, she works with a group of suffragists to win over influential men to champion their cause. Enter Sebastian Devereux, Duke of Montgomery, a cold (and handsome) man with a wit and intellect to rival Annabelle’s own. The sparks that fly are brilliant and white-hot.

When four brothers lose their foster-turned-adoptive mother, the fate of her local knitting shop is thrown up in the air. Determined to save the shop, Jesse enlists the help of childhood friend Kerry to learn the ins and outs of the business. Kerry's always had a thing for Jesse but keeps him at arm's length because of his playboy reputation. As they work closely, things between them start to change. With a combination of a charming neighborhood spot, complex family dynamic, and friends-to-lovers romance, this book is exactly the kind of heart-swelling escape we need right now.

This debut is a delightful reversal of the fake-dating trope. Jo, a showrunner at the top of her game, and her assistant, Emma, are photographed laughing together on the red carpet. The result? A gossip-site-worthy shot wherein the two look totally in love (cue media speculation). But they’re just friends. And coworkers. Seriously. As rumors fly and every corner of Jo and Emma’s lives are affected, they grow closer and closer until they’re forced to question whether the paparazzi was really so off base. This banter-filled, slow-burn romance whisks you off to a world of glamour and swooning.

A gorgeous, romantic fairy tale in the vein of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Spinning Silver. (Really, this is my sneaky way of including all three books on this list.) The story follows Isobel, a talented portrait artist much sought after by the Fair Folk. When she’s hired to paint the Autumn Prince, Rook, she makes the mistake of painting human sorrow in his eyes and is whisked off to his land to stand trial for the crime of insulting him. The writing is gorgeous, the romance slow to build yet rapturous. If you want to escape our world entirely, this is the perfect way to be swept away.

While this book isn't out until June 9, I just had to include it. When Layla Patel moves back to her family home in San Francisco, her doting father sets her up with an office upstairs so she can start a new business. He also takes well-intentioned meddling to another level by arranging a series of blind dates for her. Now add the fact that she’s actually sharing her home office with Sam Mehta, the infuriating CEO of a corporate downsizing company. The two butt heads instantly, but their attraction is nearly as immediate. An enemies-to-lovers romance that’s not to miss! 

Which escapist rom-coms do you love? Let's talk books in the comments!

Check out more recent articles:
27 New Romances That Readers Love
Top 100 Romance Novels on Goodreads
Jennifer Weiner on Why 'Beach Reads' Matter Now More Than Ever

Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Elyse (new)

Elyse Reading Get a Life, Chloe Brown right now!
And I would add The Flatshare!

message 2: by JJ (new)

JJ Wall Loved The Flatshare!!

message 3: by Elaine (new)

Elaine I enjoy everything by Katie FForde, especially HIghland Fling.

message 4: by Connor (last edited May 13, 2020 07:18AM) (new)

Connor I love this list! I'd definitely add in all of Alyssa Cole's Reluctant Royals, Jasmine Guillory's books, aHelen Hoang's Kiss Quotient series, and Casey McQuiston's Red, White, & Royal Blue to this list--all contemporary rom-coms that have brought me much joy.

message 5: by Victoria (new)

Victoria S Elyse wrote: "Reading Get a Life, Chloe Brown right now!
And I would add The Flatshare!"

I don't read a lot of contempoary romance but I loved The Flatshare. Also definitely picking up Beach Read!

message 6: by Heather Button (new)

Heather Button Read The Hating Game right now!!! All time favorite ❤️

Psychowellnesscenter Real Men Knit is the one I am going to pic this season!

message 8: by Jen (new)

Jen The Unhoneymooners. Fabulous.

message 9: by Elisa (new)

Elisa Hadly I’m thinking Star-Crossed considering I’d like some chick-lit, and real men knit because I knit... and they knit... guess I’ll read it

message 10: by TMR (new)

TMR I love this selection.

message 11: by Claire (new)

Claire Handscombe So glad to see Star Crossed on this list. It’s not getting the attention it deserves! Such a good book. Loved One Day in December but definitely wouldn’t call it a rom com.

message 12: by Hazeldine (new)

Hazeldine Get a Life, Chloe Brown
I am so looking forward to reading this book! I have finally found a book with some Fibromyalgia representation in it. I have Fibromyalgia, and I can't wait for this book. Not only that but it actually sounds like a good book.

message 13: by Beth (new)

Beth Loved One Day in December and I’d add The Happy Ever After Playlist!!

message 14: by Tahsin (new)

Tahsin Deniz I recommend all of the books section ...

message 16: by Jes (new)

Jes Adding them all to my want to read list!!!

message 17: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Really loved Beach Read! Stayed up all night on vacation to read it and am now wanting everyone to just let me think back on it! January is one of my favorite book characters of recent memory because she just feels so much like a real person. She's not constantly misunderstanding and overreacting to draw the story out. There are several memorable lines in this book that I wrote down to remember. I've also listened to "Everybody Hurts" more than I have since I was a newlywed. Fantastic book!

message 18: by Bill (new)

Bill Nice to see an FF book; an MM would be nice too!

message 19: by Loribelle (new)

Loribelle THE HAPPY EVER AFTER PLAYLIST and THE FLATSHARE should be on this list :)

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