Documentary photographer finally accepts the demise of her 5-year marriage to busy Italian businessman Hero.
Although their whirlwind romance began happily,
Hero became increasingly distant since her pregnancy with their daughter.
Causing their marriage to be remote and detached. Attempting to live together for the sake of their daughter for a few weeks make them face their overwhelming passion for each other
and unsettled secrets. Her confrontation with him about it yields answers that drive the hurt even deeper and she demands a divorce.
But finally revealing his secrets open Hero up to possibilities like never before, including another chance at making their marriage work. But is it a little too late for them?
I didn’t know how to rate this book. I’ve never read Blake before so I was both impressed at how her writing gripped me from the get-go and disappointed at the way things unraveled for the main characters. The greatest strength of this book was the emotional engagement of the writing. It was focused, simply stated, and emotionally gripping. I read the first 12 pages twice just because I wasn’t at a good reading spot the first time and I wanted to make sure I got the full effect of the book the 2nd time around because I was so riveted by what I read so far. Both Hero and heroine were strong people and their feelings were intense. They butted heads because heroine wasn’t going to play the doormat anymore and wait for Hero to want to be in the marriage any longer. I loved how she gave as good as he did in their confrontations. They were as equally intense in their sexual chemistry, both fighting its’ almost-uncontrollable and wild impulse. I loved it.
Where the book unraveled for me was Hero’s secrets and how it affected their relationship. It’s been hinted all along that Hero’s change from a willingly passionate lover to an emotionally and physically withdrawing husband of 5 years had to do with big secrets he withheld from heroine. I was expecting his secrets to be big and angsty for him to be so cold and uninvolved not only with heroine but with their daughter as well. I was more confused than disappointed at the nature of his big secrets.
-------------SPOILERS: Don’t read below if you don’t want to know the book’s details----------
The main reason why Hero distanced himself from heroine and their young daughter was the heavy guilt he was feeling for ruining his brother’s life. His brother blamed him for destroying his relationship with his pregnant girlfriend who worked for Hero and who later committed suicide while still pregnant. As a result, his brother condemned him as unfit for marriage and children. It seems that Hero took this to heart, which didn’t make sense to me. He wasn’t close to his brother or parents at all, being sent to boarding school at age 12 so that his parents could devote their care on to his sickly brother. Nothing had changed since then. So, emotionally he wasn’t that attached to his brother. And the only times he was involved between his brother’s romance with his girlfriend was when his brother would call him and accused him of sleeping with his girlfriend who Hero hired before even knowing she was his brother’s girlfriend. For Hero to take responsibility of his brother’s bad breakup with his girlfriend and accept his brother’s judgment of his future marriage and family was very out of character for Hero. It was so odd and so disconnected from Hero’s character that I was confused. How could Hero punish heroine and himself for something out of left field like that? Maybe I’m totally missing something. Maybe somebody can explain this to me in the Comment section of this review. I just don’t get it. Why would he let his brother’s life drama affect his romance with heroine to that extent? And why keep that a big secret from heroine? Why not bring it up before he married her? And why marry her at all? It’s the 21st century and they could’ve both dealt with being parents to their daughter without marriage. If marriage for the sake of protecting their daughter and giving her his name was important, then why not state this and have a marriage of convenience instead, if heroine accepted it.
Hero’s other big secret was the Tay-Sach’s disease his brother has suffered from and recently died of. His abrupt change towards heroine started when she found out she was pregnant. He must’ve feared that their baby would be a genetic carrier of Tay Sachs like he and his brother were. It’s only in hindsight that I put his abrupt change, the pregnancy, and the disease together. I wish these were more clearly linked in the book as to arouse some sympathy and understanding for Hero about this at the time of his explanation. It seemed more like information that was relevant to their daughter’s health now and in the future instead of another valuable piece to the puzzle of Hero’s withdrawal from heroine in the last 5 years.
As much as I loved the focused and emotionally-engaging writing of the beginning chapters, the middle to the end chapters where Hero’s secrets get revealed didn’t seem as focused. And, emotionally, it was more disorienting. The connection between his secrets and his choices for their romance seemed disjointed. His growing indifference towards heroine was the most worrisome sign for me. I could understand his resistances to their wild attraction, his hiding or suppressing his feelings for her, and his physical avoidance of her through work. But there were instances when he could care less what she thought and what she felt. He was deliberately cold, cruel, and indifferent to her and it didn’t bother him to see her struggle so much to put a spark in their marriage. He really didn’t love her in their 5 years together. The good thing, though, was that he was honorable enough to be faithful to her, even when they'd stop having sex within the last year. He began to love her when she threatened to divorce him and he told her his secrets. This was different.
Interestingly, I believe that they could actually have a HEA(happy ever after) together. Hero did change and became serious about being there for heroine and their daughter. Spilling his secrets and the recent traumas from his brother’s death and from almost losing their daughter from an earthquake produced a change in him. Something clicked that made Hero assess his life. And heroine was someone who’s part in his life he re-assessed. Her standing up to him and telling him how he was as a husband and a father helped him face the truth and work on being different. There was no grovel from Hero, unfortunately. And heroine was ok with that. She could see that he had changed and was genuinely changing towards her and their daughter. She bought it. I bought it. I think they have a better chance at lasting love now.
I moderately recommend this book.