This is a fair, honest review of the book, even though I did receive a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for a review.
Reviewing beach reads, as with reviewing books of varying genres, tends to involve an entirely different rubric or set of rules. The rubric contains all the predictable litany of tropes one expects from this genre of books, as Nancy Thayer’s newest novel The Guest Cottage certainly falls under the beach read column. It wasn’t really my type of books for the most, and I could certainly feel that instinct while I was reading it. Certain things about this book, though, really set it apart from other books of this more like, traditionally cloying type of genre (some of the more mediocre reads, in this category, tend to be negatively described or referred to as either cloying or saccharine).
The plot-line of The Guest Cottage is fairly run-of-the-mill beach read, focused on a woman with a disheartening marriage with a rather arrogant, over-achieving architecture. Her marriage with him was as structured,and shallow as the facade of an architectural creation, which her husband may have diligently helped prepare as someone whose main business concerns in life superseded that of the life of her family. They set-up of whom the main character falls in love with, and the scenario that causes these star-crossed lovers feels also a tad bit silly and formulaic, as the contrivance that brings them together is the fact that both Sophie (the main character) and Trevor, the talented web designer who recently lost his actress wife to drug overdose) happen to be renting a beach house for the same main purpose of looking for emotional retreat from their emotionally-disfigured lives.
The writing itself was surprisingly very cleanly-written, sometimes certain prose techniques felt a bit borderline purple, but the actual character development and dialogue was fairly well-written for the most part. It certainly made for an easy,enjoyable read. The actual development of the romance, again, was mainly predictable, but for the genre of writing that this is centered in, I would rate it higher than other books in this genre, as you expect the development to be a bit more relaxed, as it is primarily a beach read, and the readers normally looking for this type of read are to expect this.
Surprisingly, the one element that set this apart from other books in this genre is a substantial focus on the perspective of the male love interest, who is able to exhibit many of the same types of passionate, emotionally-driven emotional responces as the female character in this situation. He often feels just as enamored or taken with the female love interest, as the female character, from her perspective, does with the male character. You often don’t see this type of egalitarian reciprocity, in terms of the perspectives shown in these types of books, as books of this sort tend to make the male character “stereotypical gallant,” though devoid of any feminine emotional sensitivities, whereas the female character is often stereotypical demur, over-the-top emotional to a theatrical extreme. In this story, there is a gender equality with the way both Trevor and Sophie are developed, and that was one of the high points of this book for me, even though, it again really isn’t something I’d either normally read, or frankly, not a book in a genre I typically set out to buy books from.
Nonetheless, I think it will serve as a good respite of a “feel-good” beach read for the demographic that it is being marketed towards. It is a mostly enjoyable book, though I do have a few caveats, in that some of the development is a bit predictable, and there are a few patches of purple prose, here and there. But for the most part, I would say it is mostly a good read, and those looking for something of this type of light fare, may want to bring it with them to the beach, or some other vacation spot, awaiting them this Memorial Day weekend (which is in a few weeks from now).