This is an interesting blend of BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and 50 SHADES OF GREY (without the BDSM) for me. It’s really angsty, emotional, and there’s a ton of poor decision-making occurring on everyone’s part. Characters are so damaged by their pasts that they don’t always behave lovingly, or as expected, in fact, they rarely manage to take a deep breath and figure out what is going on before overreacting.
Honestly, I thought this was going to be yet another boring NA that was so married to a common romance trope that it failed to be anything more, but I was wrong, as I was completely obsessed with this story and couldn’t put it down. So long story short, I brought a lot of doubt and judgment into this read, and while there are behaviors I still don’t condone, I was wrong on most counts about this being an interesting read. There’s even a part of me that wants to go back and reread it with fresh eyes, after knowing how it all works out. But I can’t do that, as I have already moved on to book 2 and need to know what happens next.
At the end of the day, I always prefer an emotional story with seriously flawed characters over a story that has flat characters and makes me feel nothing. Can I see some behaviors here that are red flags in a real relationship? Absolutely. But this is not a real relationship, and red flags don’t always lead to crisis. Both characters know how to stand up for themselves, so nobody is being walked on, even if I don’t always love and/or understand their decision-making during heated moments.
Oh, the drama. These two are complete idiots, but I’m kind of crazy about them. I don’t even understand why, because I would not be a fan of most of their behaviors in real life, which feels like a double standard. Regardless, I seem to be addicted.
This book isn’t quite as good as book one, because it drags on forever and doesn’t provide much that is actually new through the majority of the middle of the book. However, the characters start to show minor glimpses of personal growth here and there, which gives me hope for them.
If you like a lot of ridiculous and/or shocking drama, then this will be right up your alley, as it seems to be right up mine. I think it’s because some of the drama has real teeth. I’m usually put off by excessive surface level drama, but Todd does a decent job of making the drama feel deep and complex.
I hate to say it, but I just can’t do it anymore. That’s two really long books in a row now with no actual plot or interesting storyline, other than a lot of endless drama. I’ve even gotten bored with all the sex.
Gasp. Yes, I did say that, but it’s hard to enjoy the intimacy between the characters when their relationship lacks true intimacy. I can’t even seem to get caught up in their sexy times, because it’s usually just a way to stop fighting or set their problems aside for a few minutes before returning right to them. And that’s not sexy to me. It’s actually kind of sad and pathetic, as well as completely dysfunctional.
The cycle is pretty much the same with Hardin: controlling behaviors paired with rude and disrespectful commentary, epic arguments that always escalate, screaming hateful things at a woman he supposedly loves but can’t seem to even remotely respect, running away and drinking himself into a stupor, Seeing Tessa with another man (usually just a random guy or friend—nothing questionable), getting in physical fights and/or verbally assaulting the other man, returning pathetic and grouchy and desperate, having sex, and then promptly becoming hateful, controlling, and emotionally abusive all over again. And the whole cycle repeats ad nauseam.
I was hoping for some actual character growth and development in this book, but honestly, I think Hardin got worse and worse. I don’t even really like him anymore. He pissed me off so many times by being such a controlling and abusive bastard. It was just red flags every 5 pages with this book. I thought maybe these two would start to grow up and learn how to work together and respect each other, but clearly I was asking for too much. And Hardin makes no effort at all to help himself, such as by going to therapy. He does start confiding in family more, which helps a bit, but that only lasts for a matter of minutes before he reverts to the same bad behaviors.
I liked Hardin a lot, initially, but in this book, it’s just so very clear that he is immature, insecure, and has really low self-esteem, and the way he makes himself feel better is by controlling Tessa, bossing her around, and making her feel small, which is something I can’t accept or respect at all.
Granted, he’s dating someone who he knows is a cheater, so that alone tends to create trust issues in a relationship, but after 2,000+ pages, we shouldn’t be in the same spot that we were in back at the start of book 2. If he’s never going to afford her any trust and respect, then they both need to just let go of this co-dependent idiocy and get their own shit together before trying again in relationships with new people (or maybe not trying, in Hardin’s case).
Also super shitty is Tessa constantly blaming other people for upsetting Hardin, after he loses his effing mind and goes crazy breaking things and attacking people. This just happens over and over again, and every single time, it’s someone else’s fault for upsetting Hardin, rather than Hardin’s fault for behaving so dramatically and aggressively, instead of controlling his temper and handling situations like a rational, non-violent adult who can communicate their feelings, issues, concerns, and emotions.
So yeah. From 5 stars to 2, because being crappy at relationships and not knowing how to be in one and make it work is one thing, but failing to learn and grow from past issues and mistakes is entirely another. Hardin seems to be incapable of growth, and I’m sick of it. And him. He’s a nasty bastard for most of this book, and there’s nothing charming, hot, or sexy about that. Then, there’s Tessa, who is basically becoming the classic abused woman, putting all the blame on everyone and everything other than where the blame should be laid, which is at Hardin’s feet.
I’m obviously not moving on to book 4. Clearly, this series is being drug on endlessly for the purpose of selling books, not because most of this shit is relevant to telling a good story about these two characters. It’s disappointing, but them’s the breaks. And I pretty much saw this conclusion coming while reading the last book, but I was holding on out of a desperate hope for something better. I wish I could have back the last 7 hours of my life.