The Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
January 25, 2022, by Berkely
Reviewed by Kate
It has taken me some time to write this review for The Roughest Draft. As I mulled it over in my head, I realized that it wasn’t really what I had expected going in, and while the unexpected aspects might be problematic for some romance readers, I absolutely loved this book.
The Roughest Draft is about Kat and Nathan, who had a writing partnership and friendship which ended suddenly after publishing a bestselling book four years prior to the events of the story for unexplained reasons. However, they have one book left on their contract, and their publisher is pushing for it to get done, so they plan to stay together in the Florida house where they had written their last super successful book, and write their final book over the course of two months. The book is dual timeline: their friendship in the past, and the story of them getting together in the present.
While I was reading, one of the most frequent thoughts I had was “this book is so meta!” This is because The Roughest Draft is about a woman and man writing duo, written by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, a woman and man writing duo. And on top of that, Kat and Nathan are writing a book about a divorce while trying to come to terms with their feelings about each other. Was this a little distracting because it caused my brain to wonder how much Wibberly and Siegemund-Broka were writing from experience? Am I human? (The answer to both is yes, obviously.)
The Roughest Draft has some major plot points that might not work for a traditional romance reader. In both timelines, one of the main characters, Kat or Nathan, are in a relationship (Nathan is married in the past but divorced in the present, and Kat is single in the past, but engaged in the present). This means that as Kat and Nathan’s relationship develops, both are technically with another person. There is no physical cheating, but I do know having main characters being with others for large parts of the book might be a stretch for some romance readers. Additionally, The Roughest Draft is a fairly slow burn – Kat and Nathan don’t get together romantically and the reasoning behind why their original writing partnership broke up isn’t revealed until about 80% of the way through the book. Overall, I feel like this may seem very slow to some readers (though I understand that might be a selling point for others).
What I loved about The Roughest Draft were the feelings, the tension, the slow rebuilding of Nathan and Kat’s relationship in the current timeline, and did I mention the feelings? When I started this book, I could not put it down. For me, it was really compelling to try to understand the complex relationship between Nathan and Kat and how they had ended up in an emotional place where they hated each other. The feeling between the characters, like they were walking on eggshells with each other at the beginning of the book, felt so realistic to me. And watching them come back from that to a place where they repaired their friendship, and then built on that, was really satisfying.
There were a number of other aspects I enjoyed about The Roughest Draft. One, in particular, is that Nathan gets a divorce (between the past and present time period), and his ex-wife is never made out to be a villain. I think this is a rare thing in any kind of romantic storyline. Usually, if there’s an ex, (and especially if she’s a woman) she has to be evil to have pushed away the male main character into the arms of the female main character. But Nathan acknowledges that getting a divorce is going to hurt his then wife, but that his reasoning isn’t about anything she did, but about him and how he has changed. I also believe that Katrina’s depression and anxiety are handled well. The way her feelings were described made sense to me, she was clearly handling it by getting therapy, and I appreciate seeing characters on the page who have mental illness as a clearly described part of their personality, and the impact of that on their life.
Overall, I liked The Roughest Draft. It worked well for me, because it was an engrossing story that I was able to get lost in. Despite the cutesy cover, this book gave me a dose of angsty romantic tension straight to my veins, and apparently, reading about fictional characters’ super complicated feelings was just what I needed.
Content notes: Katrina has depression and anxiety and it is briefly discussed.
Hmm, this does sound intriguing! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kate.
You’ll have to let me know what you thought if you read it!