Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka are no strangers to romance, with four YA romances under their names and one more to come next year. I’ve read none of them yet, but what I have read is their first foray into adult romance, and what better romance to write than one inspired partly by their own lives?
“The Roughest Draft” tells the story of two estranged co-writers, Katrina and Nathan, whose partnership fell apart as soon as they turned in the draft of their second novel. But their second novel sells extremely well, propelling them into fame. However, Katrina has quit writing since then.
When Nathan’s first solo novel does less numbers than expected and Katrina’s fiancé-slash-literary-agent reveals that he’s in need of money, the two of them agree to write their final co-written novel under contract. But on their writing retreat in Florida, in the same house where their partnership fell apart, old feelings of all kinds start to be rekindled.
Maybe I’m suffering from the unfortunate condition of being a writer (I write young adult contemporary novels and just got an agent last August), but the most engaging part of this book was not the romance and drama of the main characters’ lives or even the shockingly beautiful prose — instead, I was fixated on Katrina and Nathan’s writing process.
Seeing the two of them craft a story from scratch was incredible; it made me want to pull out my computer and just start writing something new. Maybe, for a non-writer, or at least someone with no creative experience in any form, this book might be very confusing, easy to get lost in, but for me, it was beautiful to read.
That being said, there’s more to this book than the very meta experience of me being a writer, reading a book about writers, written by writers. From the beginning, Nathan and Katrina’s chemistry is immediately apparent, filling the pages with tension you could literally cut through. Even their squabbles are filled with love, a kind of love that can only come from two people who’ve worked together so intimately and tried to repress their feelings for years upon years.
What’s more, Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka’s writing style is wonderfully elevated in their adult debut. I lied a bit when I said I’ve never read their YA books — I did read about fifty pages of their first YA book before my library loan expired, and the style is virtually unrecognizable.
Their writing is impressively descriptive, not too weighty for an adult romance novel but not quite as commercial as their YA books seem to be. Very fitting, then, for the subject matter of this book. And very fitting for me, someone still in the infancy of her writing career.
“The Roughest Draft” comes out on Jan. 25. I received an early copy from the publisher, Berkley, in exchange for an honest review.