Review: Only Forever

tl;dr: paranormal romance with unclear mythology but interesting character arcs


The Story:

Anyone who knows me is aware of my rather myopic preferences on romance novels. I like contemporary romance. I don’t typically read any other sub genre, including but not limited to westerns, paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and especially not historical. This also extends to other forms of media, including television and movies. I say all this up front because it colors how I feel about this book.

When I first began reading it, I was pretty surprised to find a very strong paranormal or magical element to the story, since the publisher’s description does not accurately represent this side of the story. It was glaringly obvious from the second chapter that something was afoot. There are some protestors outside of the archeological dig site that most of the book takes place at, and the leader of the protesting group shares a weird glance between herself and Sabrina, one of the main characters.

Sabrina gulped for air, realizing she’d been holding her breath for the moments she’d been trapped in the woman’s gaze. The discomfort that had enveloped her faded the farther they got from the gate, but a ghostly after-feeling remained, as if the encounter had dug up and resurrected something ancient inside her that had been buried deep eons ago.

I almost threw in the towel in that point, because I do not enjoy paranormal romance, particularly since I didn’t think it was supposed to be one. But let me be clear–this is a paranormal romance, with some sort of Celtic mythology about soulmates. This mythology is not explained very well, and actually, the author spends more time discussing the archeology setting than the paranormal premise of the novel, which is that Sabrina, despite being married to Dominic, is one half of a soulmate pair with Ian, her husband’s best friend.

The push and pull between the two soulmates was executed well, and the anguish they feel about having to stay apart is palpable. It dragged on for a very long time, though, and I felt like the impetus for them finally coming together was somewhat out of character for how Dominic is supposed to be (logical, hardworking). The jealousy and hurt feelings by everyone made sense, even for the other people on the dig who weren’t directly related, since it affected the whole environment to have hostilities between people who had leadership over the group.

In general, the characterization was mostly good, but I think that the similarities between Ian and Sabrina, and then between Dominic and Meggan, could have been a little more obvious, with more time spent on that than yet another sex scene that didn’t serve to further the plot. I also felt that the story maybe could have benefitted from some kind of prologue, maybe giving some explanation into the soulmate thing, giving a clear mythology to extrapolate the rest of the story from.

The conclusion was good, and left a fitting bookend to the story that was satisfying, leaving the reader able to imagine the new normal for all the main players.

Technical Elements:

I found the smut to be too crass and explicit. I’m not a huge fan of certain crude words for body parts, and this book was overloaded. There are 321 instances of the f-word. It was pretty gratuitous at times. A little can go a long way.

Some of the writing was also a little awkward, where some sentences weren’t as clear as they could have been. Example:

Dominic’s comments fisted Ian’s hands at his sides, but he held his anger in check.

Now, I know that the author here intends to describe how Dominic’s words caused Ian to feel anger, and therefore tighten his hands into fists, but the way it’s written here is as if comments could become sentient, grab hands, and manipulate them. There were a few of these scattered around, phrasing that I had to read and reread before I understood what they were supposed to mean.

Overall, I felt like the book could have done with some trimming of excess to make it a little tighter. I also felt like some themes were introduced in early chapters and completely dropped until the end; for example, Sabrina’s adventurousness in bed and Dominic’s preference for more straight-forward sex. In the entire middle of the book, it’s a non-issue, and I think that would have been a good way to show the divide between Sabrina and Dominic, and emphasize the similarities between Sabrina and Ian, but instead, it’s a non-issue until the very end. Even the growing chasm between the newlyweds isn’t apparent until the author points it out, instead of slowly introducing it over time, because all of a sudden, Dominic has no time for Sabrina anymore.

Final Thoughts:

I didn’t hate this book. That doesn’t sound like a glowing endorsement, but considering that I really dislike paranormal romance, and even more so that I didn’t feel like the mythology was well-explained at all, it’s a fairly positive reaction from me. Someone who enjoys Celtic mythology and adultery plots would probably really enjoy this, especially if they have a high tolerance for highly explicit (bordering on pornographic) smut. There were a lot of interesting interactions between characters, but I needed more. More explanation, more nuanced plot development, and maybe less sex. (Did I just type that? First time for everything, I guess.)

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Looking for another book that contains adultery and a character named Megan? Try The Girl on the Train which is definitely NOT a romance. [Read my review!]

Review: The Girl on the Train

I the-girl-on-the-train-coverwent into this book not knowing a thing about it, and I think that played in its favor. I wasn’t expecting any of the twists and turns, and so I was just along for the ride.

This book is from the perspective of 3 women whose lives become intertwined. Rachel is the alcoholic woman scorned, who is still hanging on to the hope that she will be reunited with her ex-husband. Megan is the neighbor that Rachel watches on her daily commute on the train, imagining the rich life that she is leading and the husband that dotes on her. Anna is the other woman, trying to pursue her own happily ever after while being pulled between the narratives surrounding each of the first two.

Without giving much away, the story builds through the variety of viewpoints and time periods to build a really interesting mystery. I did find the ebook format to be not conducive to being able to follow the timeline though. In a print book, it would be easy to flip back and see where we left off time wise with each narrator, and even to the beginning of the story. After awhile, I tried to ignore the time stamps, but there are pretty important to the way that the story is constructed. I think this would be even worse on audio. Particularly confusing is when the story jumps from the present to the past and back to the present, and I was confused about how much time had passed between the two present day chapters. Each chapter is broken into days, and those days are broken into morning and evening, or sometimes morning and afternoon, or some combination. There was a lot of going back and forth that disrupts the flow of the reading experience, as I was trying to place where I was in the timeline.

This book uses the red herring device a lot. I can see how some readers would be put off by this, but I thought it added a lot of layers to the story and they weren’t too disruptive. It was good to see the viewpoints of the same events from three sides, also.

This is a layered, complicated story that I really enjoyed. This review is purposely vague because most of the enjoyment that I got from it was the experience of peeling away those layers and building upon the story in order to get to the final reveal. The ending itself was just okay. Sometimes I can imagine a better way for the story to end, but in this instance it may be the best that it could be. The way that I thought it was going to go would have been really melodramatic and cringe-worthy, and I’m glad it didn’t go that way.

5 stars.

This book fulfills no requirements for the challenge.