Forbidden Hearts, Book 3
Heat Factor: For as raunchy as the sex is, there is not nearly enough of it.
Character Chemistry: They are too busy having Feelings about their Complicated Family Drama to actually interact that much.
Plot: She’s had a crush on him since forever. He’s had a crush on her since…last month. Now they are in a wedding together at a secluded cabin in the woods.
Overall: Too. Much. Angst.
I should have known that a book called Hurts to Love You would be angsty, but I was not prepared for this level of internal turmoil. Eve and Gabe spend pages and pages and pages self-flagellating about all kinds of emotional nonsense. They worry about their hidden feelings for each other (Eve: “I am perving on him and maybe borderline stalking him! It’s so creepy!” Gabe: “I am too old for her and she is so vulnerable and I am a manslut! It’s so creepy!”). They worry about showing their true emotions to anyone. They worry about their families and their relationships with their fathers and their relationships with their siblings and their family secrets and also there’s a family feud that is only slowly starting to heal. Once they start boning, they worry that they are catching real feelings for each other, even though the other person OBVIOUSLY wants to keep things casual.
The moment that I gave up on the characters happened fairly early on. Eve calls up her roommate (Saint Madison, Helper of Anxiety-Ridden-20-Somethings) to get reassurance that she’s not a weirdo. The whole conversation was very familiar to me – I know the dynamic of reassuring a good friend about whatever – but also so, so, so exhausting. Because, Praise the Lord, I am not 23 any more, and while being a good friend is still about being supportive and building your friends up when they need it, I now hang out with people who are actually grown-ass adults and don’t rely so heavily on others to process their shit. I know that sounds callous, but I read romance because it makes me happy, not because I want to be reminded of what friendship was like when I was in high school.
Sidenote – why are you so worried about being a weirdo, Eve? Being a weirdo is not that bad. You are not 14 anymore, where liking something that is not completely mainstream means that you have to eat lunch by yourself.
Look, I will acknowledge that Eve has reasons for being extremely insecure and for building up a protective shell around herself. Gabe also has reasons for pulling away from people and hiding behind a mask of congeniality. And they do have some nice moments of personal growth – especially Eve – where they work through some of the baggage they have been carrying for years.
However, many of these moments don’t occur with each other, and therefore don’t necessarily foster a deepening of the relationship between Gabe and Eve, romantic or otherwise. If this book weren’t a romance, then I wouldn’t care (and would actually think that that’s better, because you shouldn’t rely on only your romantic partner to help you figure your shit out), but Gabe and Eve spend so little time actually interacting in any substantial way that I was desperate for them to have something that showed that their connection was more than this intuitive thing that didn’t need to be fleshed out.
Hurts to Love You gets a bit better once Gabe and Eve jump in the sack, mainly because Rai has a gift for writing extremely hot sex scenes. This also means that they can actually start miscommunicating because they are not being entirely honest with themselves or each other about their feelings, instead of miscommunicating because they are hiding from each other. However, this doesn’t happen until more than halfway through the book (around page 200 in the paperback), so there’s a lot of other slog to get through first.
It should be noted that I have not read any of the other books in the Forbidden Hearts series. There is a lot of backstory with the other characters, many of whom play prominent roles in how Gabe and Eve see themselves. Rai does successfully lay enough of this backstory out that I didn’t feel lost, but since I had no pre-existing emotional investment in the other characters, it was harder to get excited about them as people.
Bottom line: If you’re really into the combination of angst and good sex writing, this series might be for you, but I would suggest starting at the beginning, rather than the end.
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