to support her and her daughter.
She's had to sacrifice her worsening health since she gave birth 18 months ago. Her resultant collapse at the restaurant, where Hero's brother was dining, was the happenstance that 33y.o Hero needed to find her.
He wastes no time in taking her back home
and in letting her know exactly what he thinks of her now.
And how he's always felt about her.
It devastates her.
But his devotion to their daughter
and their undeniable chemistry
clouds her resolution to sever their marriage. When he pushes her too far, however, she finally has enough.
And she faces him down with the harsh truth, which now makes him want to save their marriage. While she wants a divorce.
What can he do to convince her to give him a second chance?
I'm on the fence with this Anders' book. There's a lot going on emotionally. We're smacked with Hero's atrocious verbal and emotional battering of heroine from the very start. It was hard to take because it was one after another. Getting worse and worse as he found out what heroine had done the last 2 years. And heroine was defenseless in her sick physical condition and psychological shock at Hero's abuse. I actually had to take a break at around 20% of the book because the angry angst was a little too much. I found myself talking to my digital reader, calling Hero an "ass" each time he compounded his criticisms, sneering, mockery, and open contempt of very sick heroine. My husband was worried at my aggression towards my e-reader and was probably thankful that it wasn't aimed at him. I also began noting down all the crap Hero was piling on heroine as well as the sequence of events because it jumped around. In one way, the non-chronological plot made it a bit hard to follow the story. But, in another way, it added to the mystery, unpredictability, and emotional volatility of my reading experience.
Hero was a contemptuous, vengeful, callous, judgmental, and deliberately hurtful blamer of heroine for the 1st 50% of the book. At 70% of the book, he downgraded to guilt-tripping and subtle manipulation of her feelings. And I was still calling him an "ass". By 90%, he'd wised up and genuinely tried his best to change for the better. I started liking him then. One of the best things about this book was the timeline of the problem and resolution. Hero didn't change instantly and their relationship went through months of change before the ending. Even the epilogue was 2 years later, which I loved because it allowed us to get a more realistic picture of their HEA(happy ever after). More importantly, it let us see how stable the character changes were in Hero. I had a hard time liking him and trusting his motives. He had a lot to make up for with heroine and he partially redeemed himself.
Heroine's character growth was the catalyst for the positive turnaround of the book. Heroine began as a naive doormat who blindly loved and worshiped Hero during their 2-year marriage. She was grateful that somebody so attractive and successful like him would pick a nobody like her. She gave him her all and didn't demand anything back. She was just glad that she got to be with him. Although it bothered a bit that he didn't shared much of his past with her, it didn't matter much to her because she was reveling in the attentions he was giving her in the here and now. Although it bothered her that he had never uttered that he loved her, she excused it for the affection he showed her non-verbally. However, her unexpected pregnancy announcement changed everything in their fragile romance. She was blindsided by his response, which resulted in their separation. Being reunited with him again 2 years later was even worse than being separated. His verbal and emotional assault on her person paralyzed her for a time. She was assaulted by this man that she didn't recognize, a side of her husband she never knew. Her change wasn't instant. It was born out of mistakes and excuses she made for him. When she finally exhausted all her excuses and reached the limit of abuse she was willing to take from him, then all her inherent stubbornness to cling to what she had with him transferred over to her persistence to leave him and move on with her life. The best thing about this book was that heroine backed up with plan to move on from Hero with actions.
---------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details----------------
She went from wavering in her decision to stay in her 1-sided marriage of convenience or get a divorce:
i.e., she slept with him a couple times after he bluntly told her that "the thought of
touching you makes my skin crawl" (p. 62) because she "didn't care (about anything)
anymore...(but that) "she was in Bryce's arms exactly where she belonged" (p. 72)
To stable in her intent to divorce him:
i.e., after she & Hero sexually pleasured each other the night before, she realized that
sex "hadn't really changed the big picture. Their marriage was over." (p. 180)
To determined to no longer be manipulated & passively endure his emotionally abuse:
i.e., when Hero was guilt-tripping her about leaving him AGAIN, she told him: ”I didn't
exactly want to leave the last time (Hero ordered her to leave him)...I just don't think
this situation can be redeemed. Too much has been said and done to go back.”
To kickass confrontational & unmoved by Hero's manipulations of her:
i.e., when he accused her of being too good for his apology/money/love, she faced him
down with "What apologies? What love?...So far I haven't heard a word of apology
from you. Not for tossing me out or for misjudging me. And you haven't once, not once,
since our wedding, since before our wedding for that matter, told me that you love me!
In fact, you did that polar opposite of that; you told me that you married me out of duty,
that you'd never loved me, are you telling me different now?...Make up your damned
mind because I'm sick of your multiple personality disorder.” (p. 185)
She went through with the divorce and even dated another man while living in Hero's house at his suggestion. She did eventually move out with her daughter at a nearby townhouse, which she demanded Hero pay for if he was going to insist in having his daughter live near him.
I was so proud of her developing a backbone as the book progressed. I was mentally high-fiving her! And it was her choices to be treated with respect and have a better life for her and her daughter that forced the changes in Hero. She had a bit of a setback towards the end though. When she should've confronted him on the damage he did to her and what he needed to do to make amends, she nixed it and instead comforted him for his broken past. I also was bothered by how easily she succumbed to sex with him & then berated herself for her stupidity for falling for it time and time again. Hero actually had to put a stop to their make-out sessions while she was begging him for more. Don't like this "magic pen"(is) trope at all.
My problem with Hero's groveling was twofold: 1.) much of it was because of pressure from heroine and 2.) it side-stepped the whole emotional abuse element. Hero was forced to change his attitude, actions, and words by heroine, whom he later realized he wanted a second chance with. He was dragging his feet and continued to manipulate her to maintain their previous status quo from 50% to 90% of the book. Heroine had to call him on his guilt trips, word manipulations, and woe-is-me victimizing (i.e., he's now partially deaf/can't go back to work/has phobias/not able to see his daughter for 2 years/etc. because heroine left him) to get him to stop and find a healthier way to get what he wanted. He would've continued emotionally battering her if she let him. He continually tamped down any guilt he had for hurting her and found some vengeful justification for why he she deserved it. It took some time and for heroine to do some drastic changes and fight back with the truth to finally get him to wise up and to seriously begin looking at changing himself. He was like a spoiled child who was given no more recourse to manipulate and frequently given timeouts for bad behavior. It was only after 90% of the book did Hero start making changes willingly/for himself and not just because he was caught being bad or feared being punished (i.e., losing heroine for good, hurting their daughter). Beforehand, he strongly resisted taking personal responsibility for his mistakes in their marriage and hurting heroine. He tended to blame heroine, his past, etc. and was arrogant to boot. He unfortunately was more like his abusive father as he feared.
------------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details--------------
The main reason Hero held back verbalizing his love for heroine was that he didn't know what love was because he'd never been loved for himself before. He was abused as a child. His father physically, verbally, and emotionally abused him as far as he could remember. His mother enabled the abuse by doing and saying nothing. It was up to Hero to protect his younger brother from their dad's abuse. In fact, his brother knew nothing about it until the present time, when Hero finally told him. Hero considered his father a "monster" and feared becoming like him with his own family. Thus, his rejecting response to heroine's unexpected pregnancy announcement 2 years ago that caused her to leave him. Hero also held back on showing heroine his love during their marriage because he didn't think he deserved it and he expected her to leave him someday. And that's exactly what happened. Through his own choices, he acted like a "monster" like his father and verbally and emotionally abused heroine. He never physically hurt heroine but his inflicting psychological damage on her was bad enough. He could've taken the high road and responded differently than he was shown in his childhood but he just passively allowed the rage and bitterness overtake him. He even reveled in it at times.
And this was my biggest problem with the book and why Hero's grovel wasn't enough. It skimmed over Hero's emotional abuse of heroine. The focus was more on the physical abuse aspect, which never happened. Instead, the 90% of the book, where Hero verbally and emotionally acting like a monster to heroine and this big elephant in the room, was skipped in their big heart-to-heart discussion at the end! Heroine had been doing such a great job confronting Hero on his mistreatment of her. But, when it came down to Hero's apology and why/what he needed to do to redeem himself to her, the emotional abuse was padded down by both their gratefulness that he never laid a hand on her! Aaaaargh! It was going so well and I was disappointed that the emotional-abuse component was ignored in their final discussion. There were indirect references to Hero's taking steps towards it though (i.e., his seeking therapy without heroine's suggestion, confessing his secrets to his brother). But still. I would've really liked for Hero to directly and plentifully recognized and apologize for his hurtful words and emotional manipulation of heroine. I would've liked for her to shove it in his face like she did his other crap before or wear a t-shirt or custom-print a big ol' sign in the center of Hero's office that said something like, "You owe me big time." or "Change or bust." And not just let it go unspoken and unacknowledged during his major confession just because he, at least, never physically beat her up. Noooooo! He was a monster and he needed to face it and make amends for it. To her benefit, though, Hero did start making progress at voluntarily becoming a better man.
All in all, my overall rating for this book is based on my rating for Hero (a 2.5) and heroine (a 4. She was at a 5 but ended at a 4 due to aforementioned reasons.).
I moderately recommend this book.