Love can destroy you.
Love can erase you.
Love can heal you.
Love can reinvent you,
And if you are lucky enough,
Love can make you whole again.
For the first time in my blogging life, I have no idea how to rate a book. My feelings are just too all over the place. Let me try and explain…
I’m not going to lie, when I first heard about it, I was 99.99% sure that I would hate this book. It basically seemed like the polar opposite of what I might love and truthfully, in a way, it was. It had almost all of my “no-no’s” in it, the biggest one being cheating, which is almost always a deal breaker for me. But… it wasn’t as clear cut here as I expected it to be and even though I’m not sure about where I stand on it, I can certainly understand why readers are loving it.
So hear me out and see if maybe this book might be for you. I think every reader will just have to decide for themselves on this one. But I’ll be honest and tell you that the only way I was able to bring myself to read this was because a good friend gave me all the gory details in advance. There was no way I was going into this one blind but all the insanely high ratings had my curiosity peaked. So, she told me everything and knowing those details pushed me over the edge and made me decided to give this book a shot.
Warning though: THIS. BOOK. WILL. RIP. OUT. YOUR. HEART. For real. You WILL want to throw your eReader at the wall. You WILL be angry. You WILL roll your eyes and want to throttle people. You likely WILL cry. And you’ll probably hate the heroine at some point (or several). But… you might also end up loving the book. It’s just one of those books I guess that really hits home with some people.
So, about the book….
Cathy has the perfect life. Or so it might seem on the outside. She has a gorgeous, sweet, kind, thoughtful, loving husband, Ben, who thinks the world of her, is always there for her and who cares for her more than anything. But after three miscarriages, she begins to fall apart. Her sense of self-worth (which has always been shaky at best) shrivels leaving her sad, lonely, and miserable. She can’t bring herself to accept her husband’s unwavering support and can’t bear the thought of not being able to have a child. Emotional numbness begins to take over and she just slips away.
Enter Arsen. Young, confident, handsome egotistical playboy who doesn’t remotely try to hide his attraction to her and, for the first time in a long while of being closed off, he makes her feel and… she’s drawn to that.
“When our eyes connect, I see danger, and maybe something exciting. Something forbidden. Some basic instinct in my instantly recognizes that this man doesn’t make love to a woman. He fucks her.”
The more she spends time with Arsen, the further she pulls away from Ben, the perfect man who has unquestionably loved her since the day they met, until the lines between love, lust and friendship have not only been blurred but are utterly shattered.
Now, about my feelings…
For the entirety of the book, my heart bled for Ben. I mean BLED. He was one of the good guys, y’know? The keepers. The kind that you fall down on your knees and thank the high heavens for and the fact that Cathy couldn’t see it was just fucking tragic. He was the one. The hero. There was absolutely no question in my mind. Ever.
“For you I will do anything. Anything.”
“Babe, talk to me. You’re scaring me. What’s the matter? Tell me so I can fix it… please.”
Breaks my heart just reading that. 🙁
Cathy… hmm… ok, brutal honesty here. My conclusion based on the entirety of the book was that she needed help. I mean that in a very serious, non-judgmental way. She needed professional therapy. She was going through some serious depression and had a whole mix of issues going on and the way she was coping on her own ended up destroying years of many people’s lives. Again, truly tragic. It was hard not to see her as flat-out ungrateful and selfish. She had a lot of issues and truly was an anti-heroine. The only way I can come to terms with, no.. more like ‘deal with’, her actions is by feeling pity for the fact that she was in a bad place and just didn’t receive the help she clearly needed. I think it was because she didn’t know how to love herself that she couldn’t accept Ben’s love for her.
Now Arsen was interesting because in all honestly, I didn’t connect with him as a character until the epilogue. He raised my hackles because of the threat he represented and I wavered back and forth on my feelings for him. Maybe, in another book, away from this situation, I might have felt differently for him but in this book, I never personally fell for him. I couldn’t relate to Cathy’s obsession with him and because of the cheating aspect, I just felt a little ill during most of his scenes with Cathy. Especially the sex scenes. I think the best description of Arsen was this quote right here: “Arsen, a friend gone wrong.”
I think what hurt the most was that there was no justification. This wasn’t a situation where Cathy and Ben fell apart, no, this was Cathy, just Cathy, drifting away. And a big part of me hated her for it because she had Ben. She loved Ben and she threw him away.
“I wish I could save you, Cathy. Take the pain away; erase it from your body. I wish I could hurt for you, but I can’t. You have to save yourself. All I can do is love you. Through it all, just love you. But you need to let me back in.”
While the story is primarily told from Cathy’s POV, we do also get a few scenes from Ben’s side partway through and later on, some from Arsen’s. The first half is actually fairly slow building. I was enjoying my read and I liked all the flashbacks that built the foundation of Cathy and Ben’s relationship but at the same time, nothing was really putting my heart in my throat per say. But then one tiny lie started the downward spiral… and that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach began to grow as I watched bit by bit as something that I’d come to love got torn to shreds.
The real cheating didn’t begin until the second half and even when Cathy was in a place where she felt like she needed Arsen, I still just didn’t feel anything for him. It was like a total emotional disconnect and I just felt sick to my stomach for what they were doing to Ben. There was never a point where I was torn between Ben and Arsen. I didn’t blame Arsen though… he was just being Arsen. I wouldn’t have expected different or better for him. He just came, he saw, he conquered and in a weird way, he was trying to help her. He did have real feelings for her. But Cathy… fuck. I was pretty disgusted with her because what she wanted from Arsen wasn’t something that Ben wasn’t offering, it was just something she wasn’t in a place in her life (I guess) where she was able to accept it. And she was the one in the position to say no. And she didn’t. And I hated her for it.
“No one said cheating was pretty but hell, it’s downright disgusting. Yet, I can’t stop myself from doing it… I feel revulsion turn my stomach upside down by my own actions. I want to scream, I want to throw up, I want to die. I’m repulsed by me, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay to be with Arsen.”
But as much as I hated that Cathy needed Arsen, I won’t deny that he did help her in a way. For some unfortunate reason, he was the person who was able to help her reach a level of healing that she sadly wan’t able to get from Ben even though he was offering it to her.
My heart just broke for Ben over and over again. Every tear I cried was for him. The first time was around the 60% mark and just suddenly… TEARS and full body chills. That man just did not deserve what he was delivered. Dear Lord but he did not deserve it. It was tragic and just… heart breaking.
It wasn’t until the very, very, VERY end that I came to terms with some of what had happened. There was one line in particular that actually made me reconsider a lot of what I’d read and look at Cathy in a different light. Not that it made me understand her, but more that it made me understand something about her. The ending… well, I’m not going to give it away directly but it’s a bittersweet, tragic HEA. “Technically” I’m happy with the ending. Even though “happy” really does NOT seem like the right word. Relieved, maybe?
“There never was a choice for us, was there?”
To tell you the truth, I have NO idea how to rate this book. Was it good? Yes. It absolutely was. For sure. But a part of me wants to give it 2 stars because I’m so fucking angry and then another part of me wants to give it 5 stars because holy hell did it make me feel. I don’t feel good rounding out that number though because 3.5 honestly doesn’t feel right either. Ben was a 5 star character and, tragic as what happened was, I think they had a 5 star love. Most of my ratings are based on my feelings but at the same time, I don’t just want to ‘feel’ any emotion, I want to feel specific ones and… this book made me feel some things I wish I hadn’t felt. *sigh* I just don’t think it’s possible in this case to generalize my feelings down to one specific number.
Overall I’d say it was partly 2 star and partly 5 star but not an average of them. It just was what it was.
There’s a line actually that kind of resonates with how I feel about the book as a whole:
“I hate you as much as I loved you.”
Mia Asher has written a strong, compelling debut novel that takes you through the beautiful and ugly sides of love and betrayal. Truly, a broken love story in every way.