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Book Review: Beach Rivals by Georgie Tilney

Book Review: Beach Rivals by Georgie Tilney

It’s peak summer reading season and if you haven’t amassed a pile of books that deliver all the sunny holiday vibes, then now’s the time to start. Georgie Tilney’s suitably summery Beach Rivals meets all the criteria for the perfect holiday read, complete with an escapist beach backdrop, a cast of bookish characters, and a light-hearted, grumpy x sunshine rom-com storyline that’s almost too easy to root for.

At twenty-five, Clare thought she’d have her life figured out by now. Instead she’s jobless, directionless, and living back at home with her mum. She’s been drifting since she dropped out of university in her final year and she still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. When she sees a job advert for a three-month bookseller position on a Bali beach, she sees it as an opportunity to live the work-life dream. To her amazement, she gets the job. But the beachfront bookshop isn’t quite what she was expecting. Not only is it rundown and not making any money, but she has to share the job – and a flat – with handsome but humourless American Jack, who seems as thrilled by the prospect as Clare is. Which is to say, he isn’t thrilled at all.

Jack and Clare are polar opposites. Where Clare is happy-go-lucky, spontaneous and creative, Jack is serious, studious and play-it-safe. Clare wants to make the best of her time in Bali by trying to make the bookshop the successful community hub it once was, whilst Jack has already decided the bookshop is a lost cause and is just biding his time until he returns to Chicago. The more they clash over their approach to the bookshop, the more they warm to each other in other ways, and it’s not long before they’re working together for a common goal. But when the owner of the bookshop has already given up on saving it, how can Clare and Jack – two people who can’t seem to agree on anything – turn everything around?

It wasn’t until she’d arrived, until she’d seen what a state it was in, that it had started to feel like something more. Something about the shop made her feel needed. She could help things, she knew it. She could make things better.

Beach Rivals will likely draw in avid rom-com readers with its title alone but despite Clare and Jack seeing the world through different lenses, there’s not an awful lot of rivalry to be found in the story. They don’t understand each other at the start, but they’re not out-and-out bitter adversaries. In fact, for a good portion of the book, they actively avoid or ignore each other. If you’re expecting heated competition or lots of sizzling confrontations, this doesn’t really deliver (unless ruminating silence and awkward looks are your jam). However, what it does deliver is the absolute dream scenario for many a summer rom-com book lover. Beautiful tropical location? Check. Lots of bookish chatter? Check. Brooding, thoughtful and distractingly attractive colleague (who’s also a secret sci-fi fan)? Check. It all combines to offer up the perfect diversion from everyday life. If you don’t have a summer holiday planned, this book is the next best thing.

Clare’s adventure to discover what she wants out of life – professionally and personally – is an enjoyable and heartening journey. Sure, it’s not unusual nowadays for twenty-somethings (or even thirty and forty-somethings) to not have their whole futures planned out, but her fear over the pressure to do something with her life – a fear driven by the sudden loss of her father – is relatable. Of course the whole mission to save the bookshop is a bit of an ‘on a wing and a prayer’ situation, and if you’ve read enough rom-coms you’ll see the ending coming before the book is even halfway through. Yet there’s also something exceedingly comforting about a story that plays out exactly as you want it to, with a satisfying end that leaves you with a big smile on your face.

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Whether it delivers on the titular rivalry or not, Georgie Tilney’s rom-com is the definitive summer novel – one that transports readers to sunny climes and a consoling world of books you won’t want to leave. In fact, expect job searches for paradise bookshops to go up tenfold when this book hits shelves.


Beach Rivals is published by Penguin on 20 July 2023

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