This is one of those reviews that is really painful to write. We don’t pass out five stars easily, nor do we carelessly toss out twos or threes. We understand that authors try to put a part of themselves out for the world to enjoy, but sometimes it needs to be re-evaluated before it’s set free. By no means am I saying that books should be trashed, just that they need to be thoroughly thought out and edited. This is one of those books that skipped that step.
There were multiple frustrations throughout the entire story. Often times a book will start rough and get better, or the editing will get worse in the second half for some odd but frequent reason. This started rough and maintained it all the way through. The editing was basically nonexistent. Which brings me to my first topic on this book.
Books should be edited. Period. This book had no editing at all. In fact, I wonder if it was read more than once by the author. I can only speculate as to why none of the beta readers pointed out that typos are distracting and improper grammar is obnoxious, especially for grammar freaks. That lack of honesty is bad for readers and authors. It’s normal to have a few slips, that’s usually not a problem. Breaking Lucas is one long typo. I found myself rereading the same passages over and over, because the grammar was so bad that I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. From the get-go I had to force myself to continue through, constantly flipping back. I wept over the lack of editing and the vexation it caused.
Next, a book should be written in one tense. I lost count of how many times I came across sentences like, “The hem of my shirt was tugged down and my shoulder is exposed.” This is a whole different breed of typo. There’s grammar and then there’s tense. Since the entire book is written this way I’m guessing that she decided to change the tense later on in the book and attempted to switch to past tense without fulling getting rid of the first. That’s what I’m hoping, but that would mean that she read through it again. The plethora of errors says otherwise, so I’m frustratingly confused all over again.
By far the biggest complaint of this book is that the timeline is all over the place. It should have been easy. Settle on how long they knew each other, then how long they dated, then how long they were married, then how long he was gone, and finally, settle on how old their daughters are. Not only did I have to reread passages due to grammar, but I had to go back entire chapters. After many wasted hours of trying to settle this issue, I came to the conclusion that even the author couldn’t keep track. Perhaps there was a time machine that wasn’t mentioned or an alternate universe, which a sci-fi book would explain, but this is romance. Here’s a frustrating example: it is stated that they knew each other for ten years. Sounds simple, but that is maybe or maybe not before they married. They dated anywhere from birth to several years; it was never definitively stated, but they did apparently know each other “forever”, or maybe ten years or maybe since junior high. These are actual references from the book. In another example, she remembers him dropping off their daughter at kindergarten after they’d been married a few (don’t ask what a few means) years, yet by one account their daughter is eighteen months when this occurs. Last time I checked, kindergarten started at five, maybe four years old. Eighteen months wouldn’t even be preschool; it would simply be daycare. Perhaps, Illinois is the exception. Later, Lucas’s father comments on it being their six year anniversary, yet their daughter is ten. Who knows how old the second one is, because both of the main characters keep flip-flopping between his disappearance being from four to six years, which doesn’t add up if the first was truly eighteen months when he vanished. In another case, she holds her oldest child on her hip. Now, if that kid is ten she’s got to be at least forty pounds, probably more. That would topple over our dainty heroine.
Moving on. The book has a lot of regurgitation. At least one third could have been safely shaved off. When a book starts having the exact same sentences and inner dialogues repeated over and over, the reader either stops all together or starts skimming. Kaelyn goes on about how he left her for (insert random number) of years, yet he’s her heart and soul. In the span of one paragraph she goes from never forgiving him to him being the great love of her life whom she cannot live without. It felt as though the author copied and pasted this throughout. Then there’s Lucas. One second he’s adamant that he left to protect her and the next he’s determined to win her back. Again, this felt copied and pasted.
Here’s a big issue for everyone who is human: when your “true love” abandons you that basically says he doesn’t want you around. Do either file for divorce? That would be the sane thing to do, for either party, but it doesn’t happen. He leaves without a word of explanation and she just keeps on hoping he’ll come back from wherever he has magically disappeared to, while at the same time her hatred festers. After at least one year the abandoned party would probably think about moving on, yet she never does. As for Lucas, he left for the world’s dumbest reason: he had cancer. It’s during hardships like this that family needs to stick together the most. It makes no sense, and what’s worse, is that he stays away. He’s cured in a few months, but never goes back. One must question as to why. After all, she is the love of his life. I’m positive she would have forgive him for his ridiculous thinking and for being gone four months. Yet, he never returns and I’m clueless as to why.
I hate to say it, but the book lacks all credibility. He moves to No Name City, Texas to get more cancer treatment (more on that in a sec) at the exact same time that she moves to No Name City, Texas to run her family’s coffee shop?? They’re all from Chicago, so I am utterly confused as to how the planets aligned in a random place in Texas and this cafe that’s been in the family for decades mystically appears. Backstory could have cleared up the coffee shop at least. Next, he’s battling cancer and is so weak he cannot open a child-proof bottle of pain killers. His father sees him struggle and opens it easily. The very second Lucas downs his opiate he hops on his Harley and drives off with his father. I can’t decide which is more disturbing, the fact that he’s riding intoxicated or the fact that a man who couldn’t open a bottle of pain killers is now cruising around town on a machine that weights up to a thousand pounds. Both sound like a recipe for disaster, yet fit in with the overall story. After all, he’s bald from chemo, but chiseled from his daily workouts. I can’t begin to explain that contradiction.
This next part is still about the lack of credibility, but it deserves a paragraph all of its own. I wondered repeatedly if he was secretly the president or a movie star incognito, because every single time he trekked down to MD Anderson he was ushered into his doctor’s office within thirty seconds. The cold hard truth is that even dying people wait their turn, unless its in the ER. But he was never in the ER. After one particularly ridiculous account of him storming out of the doctor’s office like an angry child who doesn’t like his options, he comes back the same day demanding that they perfom the surgery that could leave him with no memories. Kaelyn’s professed love was suddenly worth the risk. The kicker is that when he saw the doctor during that morning’s impromptu visit, he was told that it would take several days to prep the OR. That’s believable and true; those rooms are booked in advance. The only place surgery happens immediately is, again, in the ER. Except for Lucas. They literally strap him to a gurney in the waiting area for all to see. Surely the people hooked up to their chemo bags are wondering why he gets to jump to the front of the line. And apparently, he didn’t need to fast for brain surgery, which is surprising. Even a lumpectomy requires fasting and that’s typically general anesthesia.
Which brings about another painful issue; the one concerning his cancer. He watched his mother die a horrible death from lymphoma, which is supposedly why he was “protecting” Kaelyn by vanishing. It’s not genetic, yet at one point he had it too. But then he says that it started as a pain in his shoulder. Then it was suddenly throughout his entire body and doctors believed it started in his stomach and stretched all the way through his digestive track. If he was riddled with cancer, his chances of survival were probably less than half a percent. Somehow he’s cured. I’m not sure how many times he had cancer, but it was a lot. His latest form of cancer comes in the shape of a brain tumor, hence the potential for memory loss from surgery. I’m speculating, but my guess is that the author doesn’t know about cancer personally or just couldn’t settle on one, because they all sound so exciting in their own horrific way. The lack of research and seriousness given to this delicate topic was tragic, and as one reader who has seen first-hand the effects of cancer and chemo, who has loved and lost, it was very hard to choke down.
The end was a complete let down. In Texas, Lucas had his dream record company and Kaelyn was fulfilling her own dream by running the family coffee shop. Yet, they go back to Chicago where they buy a huge ranch and leave behind their success. No reason is ever given and it felt like a quick jaunt back to their home town because that’s where this kind-of-almost-wanna-be series is based. Essentially, their entire families moved to Texas to be with them and they found happiness, so I’m confused yet again. The question is, why move when all your dreams have come true and you are surrounded by loved ones?
In my opinion, the only thing that could have saved even a fraction of the book is if he had died. I hate to say it, but it’s one of those Titanic moments where the book would have been given meaning by his death. Unfortunately, cookie-cutter romance never ends with death and that’s a given. I could list a dozen other books and movies where the deeper meaning and saving grace was someone’s death. Life is short and love is what gives it meaning. Death enforces this fact. I found that this book was neither short nor a testament to love.
Now for the ratings:
- Genre and reading age – obviously it is aiming for romance and the audience is mature.
- The level of sexuality – there was some, but it lacked creativity and I skimmed most of it.
- Was there graphic language? Of course. Not so much in Kaelyn’s case, but what is a stereotypical hero without the frequent use of the f-word?
- Did I cry? Only tears of frustration.
- Is it part of a series? Sort of. It’s supposed to be part of a group of books based out of Chicago, but the entire thing is in Texas. Except for the ranch at the very end, which is located in the heart of Chicago??
- Level of character development – they were hollow from the beginning, which leaves lots of room for improvement, but they stayed the same people from start to finish.
- Did I laugh? No. Like I said, I cried.
The brutal, honest truth: I tried desperately to get into this book, especially with an author breathing down my neck. I gave it chance after chance to turn around. The plot had potential, but the writing was weak and confusing. Not once did I feel any emotion towards the characters, except exasperation. Even the daughters were empty and usually kids can boost an otherwise shallow book. I sadly give this book ⭐️ star, because I doubt the effort put forth towards the writing in comparison to the time spent garnering positive reviews. I’m not going to lie, though. A serious overhaul could change it all around and maybe that’s what will happen in the future.