Connor Black is a wealthy CEO at age 30, having inherited his company from his father and made it even more successful than it was. However, his love life is cold and bitter after a bad experience in his youth – at age 18, he broke up with his girlfriend Amanda, tiring of her obsessive, clingy behavior, only to find her body later after she committed suicide. She left a note blaming him for failing to love her, and he has never forgiven himself.
Amanda’s twin sister Ashlyn has never forgiven him either, and has been emotionally blackmailing him ever since. So he keeps women at a sharp distance, using them for sex but allowing no emotional commitment or relationship whatsoever. When he gets drunk at a bar, though, the stubborn, feisty, and very beautiful Ellery Lane takes him home and looks after him, beginning a connection whose power he can’t deny. Finally, he gives in and learns to love a woman – but then, he gets a shocking revelation about her that breaks his heart and shatters his dream. Can he find his way back to her before his heart is dead for good? Can he learn to support and care for someone else, and form a real human bond for a change? And will Ashlyn manage to damage their relationship for her own selfish reasons?
The concept behind this love story is a pretty standard romance novel trope; “man gives up on love due to trauma until beautiful, irresistible woman convinces him to give it another chance,” and this is not, frankly, the best version of that storyline I’ve ever read. For one thing, the book needs some serious editing, both to correct the grammar and typos and to add some variety to the frequently-monotonous sentence structure. For another, the lead character is simply not sympathetic, despite the pathos of his youthful experience.
He is an obnoxious, arrogant, controlling jerk who issues stern and domineering orders to women he barely knows in a manner that would be offensive even from a father to an adult daughter. Coming from a near-stranger, his behavior should be intolerable for any sensible woman. Worse, he goes to rather creepy lengths to get near her, and to stay in her life. For example, one night, early in their relationship (before the relationship even technically exists), he sends around his driver to pick her up for dinner without inviting her first, or even informing her – and then, when she quite rightly objects to this treatment, he has his staff track down the restaurant at which she is dining alone, goes there, and forces his company on her without bothering to consider whether she wants him there or not.
Ellery refers to him as her “stalker”, and in fact, he behaves as one – she would have been better off getting a restraining order than beginning a relationship. The couple can barely discuss any even remotely sensitive emotional issue without getting into a screaming, abusive fight, which does not bode well for their future either. The plot jumps around quite a bit, with one trauma after another to provide emotional conflict, and once the traumas mostly cease (about 50 pages from the end), there’s not enough tenderness or romantic electricity to sustain the reader’s interest in the actual romance.
Sadly, this romance novel has too many flaws, most of them in the main character, for me to recommend it. I would also add a plea to the author, and to other romance novelists, to pay attention to the danger signs of domestic and partner abuse, including controlling behavior, possessiveness, jealousy, and stalking, and to stop portraying them as romantic proof of love. You have impressionable young readers. Given the graphic sexuality of most romance novels, you probably shouldn’t, but you likely do anyway. Do not give them false information that could cost them their lives someday.
Reviewed by Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader