Cole, Taylor. Holiday Read. Aria, 2023. 400 pp. ISBN 978-1804545348 $16.99
An American abroad to escape her marriage opens a surf school, lives in her van, and waitresses in a local cafe, where she meets a hot author on holiday. Alexis is struggling to finish his work in progress, a romance novel. His agent thinks a summer fling will jumpstart his creative juices and Candice falls for it until she discovers he’s transcribing their interactions as fiction. She’s pissed until his agent Daniel shows up, makes an appeal and an apology, and suggests they write the book together, since it turns out Candice can write. Many adventures follow as Alexis and Candice try to get into the head of their characters, and the romance focus shifts from assholey Alexis to stalwart Daniel.
There are several subtle mysteries: what happened in Candice’s marriage? Why did she flee from Hawaii to Cornwall–is it really just the surf scene? Details are unraveled with masterful pacing. The novel reads more like literary fiction with strong romantic elements than a romance novel for most of the tale; it’s really about Candice’s growth, self-confidence, boundaries, and the strong friendships she makes. The romance is slow building and consummated off the page. The author pays some homage to the creation and defense of romance novels (clearly the author is a Christina Lauren fan, and I’m dying to know which romance with a red stiletto heel on the cover she references). Cole has has some very beautiful thoughtful passages throughout the book, the waxing on about sand and what is means to Candice (and what it didn’t mean to her ex, Joseph) is downright lyrical. The setting of Cornwall came to life beautifully through the descriptions of the places the characters visited. While the surf details are thorough and the seaside setting undeniable, I would not classify this as a beach read or an Emily Henry readalike.
Alexis was an unsympathetic character and not terribly likeable, and if the reader can’t suspend their disbelief at Candice’s forgiveness, it will be an easy book to drop. I powered through to see if my suspicion about the love interest would pan out.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #HolidayRead from #NetGalley.