This is an incredibly different book than the last Hoover novel I read, It Ends With Us. There are some similarities. Again with the odd naming conventions, though I do rather like the name Verity Crawford. There is also a very intense undercurrent of abuse, though in this case it is pretty intense child abuse versus the spousal abuse from the first, so be warned. Otherwise, whereas It Ends With Us is a pretty straightforward plot, this one is twisty and intriguing with more than a few curve balls.
Lowen Ashleigh has been down on her luck for some time. Her mother has just died after a long illness, her career is floundering, and she’s completely broke and on the precipice of homelessness. When the enigmatic and handsome Jeremy Crawford enters the picture to make an employment offer, she has no choice but to take the job despite it making her uncomfortable. She moves into Jeremy’s home to sift through the papers of Jeremy’s wife, the famous author, Verity Crawford. After an accident, Verity is in a vegetative state and Lowen has been hired to take over authorship of Verity’s famous book series. When Lowen uncovers a secret autobiography penned by Verity, she uncovers secrets that could hurt Jeremy and his son, two people Lowen has grown to care for deeply. Things get worse for her when strange things start occurring in the house, leading Lowen to believe things are not actually as they seem.
This is a wild ride. This book is extremely dark and disturbing. I loved the setting. The house has such a creepy, gothic vibe which is just accentuated by the anxiety-fueled plot. This is a book you do not want to put down, even though each subsequent chapter brings more and more shocks that will disturb you to your core. Honestly, as a mother, the really intense chapters involving such blatant and severe child abuse were a lot to take in. I would urge anyone who finds such subjects in literature traumatic to steer clear of this book. But if you can stomach it, this is a worthwhile read.
The character development in this book was pretty strong. I didn’t necessarily LIKE Lowen, but she was a solid character. She was complex with a lot of depth and nuance. Jeremy was an extremely effective character. Through the entirety of the book, I couldn’t really figure out if I should trust him. I wanted to like him, but there was just something about everyone who lived in that household that pushed me to believe there was more going on in the story, even with Jeremy. Is he a hero or a villain? I won’t spoil anything by telling you which way his character went. But I will tell you that it’s very difficult to gauge the actual pulse of this book. Hoover does an excellent job keeping you guessing and an even better job of throwing in some shocks even after you’ve thought you’ve figured everything out. It all culminates in a final chapter so explosive it leaves you in utter disbelief.
If I had one thing to quibble with, it’s the exact same thing I had against the last Hoover book. Colleen Hoover really likes to write sex scenes. These, on the whole, don’t bother me so much. But literally everything can become tedious when employed to an excessive degree. Frankly, I’m more interested in the story and where we wind up. Just a small smattering of sex scenes that illustrate how great Jeremy is in bed would have sufficed. And yes, I realize there’s a whole genre of book devoted solely to the idea that sex sells, but I guess erotica just isn’t really my thing.
Frankly, I think I’ve said about all I can without giving away too much. This is definitely a suspenseful read that will keep you guessing, and it’s a very effective work of fiction. Overall, I give it 4 stars.