One of my favourite things about reading so many books is finding new authors with a fresh voice, a different idea in mind, an original story to share. Nothing about Every Which Way is what you would expect a story with a love triangle to be. This is a book about the ultimate question we all ask ourselves when our heart is in danger of being broken – is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?
Our heroine is Severine, a girl with an unusual name and a quirky personality to match. Let me start this by saying that I have waited a very long time to find a female character that I would love and identify with on so many dysfunctional levels. Severine is sassy, confident, outspoken, brusque, a tease, but she is all those things without pretending to be someone else. She is flawed and completely self-aware of all her flaws. Always open about how little she invests of herself in her short-lived relationships, she consciously steers away from situations that could compromise her control over her emotions.
Severine grew up watching her mother being discarded by her father too many times to count and learned pretty early on in life that nothing can destroy a person like a crumbled and disillusioned heart.
“You should never show your emotions. Someone will steal them away, and you’ll be left with nothing, Severine… You need to remember, Severine, that a lonely heart is better than a heart left in pieces…”
She was programmed to believe that loving a man meant giving him control over her heart. These fears were instilled in her young mind as she watched her mother’s pain and her only male role model being a man who walked in and out of their life, breaking her mother’s heart time after time, never returning her love and devotion. It comes as no surprise that Severine unconsciously became a version of her father rather than her mother, as she always attributed control to him rather than to her mum.
The Sloan brothers enter Severine’s life suddenly and unexpectedly. As opposite as they could be, Thayer and Macsen represent danger and safety respectively. Thayer is the cocky player, her male counterpart in the commitment-free dating game and the moment their eyes meet they recognize that in each other. They are drawn to one another because they speak the same language without even uttering a word, they see each other as a challenge, someone to beat, someone to triumph over. Severine is instantly aware of the effect that Thayer has on her and of the potential danger her heart would be in if she got involved with someone like him. For the first time in her life, she is losing control over her own feelings.
“The ego on the two of you is enough to make the windows shatter. So you’re in Severine-land, and he’s chilling in all his hot dude glory. You are like two magnets repelling each other. The magnetic field is too much.”
Macsen is Severine’s opposite and her reaction to him is also the opposite of the chaos that his brother stirs in her. He intrigues her, he makes her heart feel safe and she lowers her guard when she is around him. He might not cause thunderbirds in her stomach but he offers her a safe haven to pursue an attraction that is mutual, comfortable and one that allows her to have the upper hand.
“Severine knew he was the safer route. He made her laugh. Being around Macsen gave her a calmness that normally never stuck. It made sense. For once, Severine needed to follow her logic and gut.”
But things are rarely what they seem and Severine soon learns that there is no safe zone when it comes to matters of the heart. Your heart can be torn even when you decide to give away only a small piece of it. This story might be based on a love triangle but the focus is more on Severine’s emotional growth and less on who she eventually ends up with. For me it was never a question of whom she would choose in the end – this book for me represented a young woman’s struggle to come to terms with her aching desire to love and to be loved, and all the ingrained fears that she carries inside her. Her inner battle is heartbreaking as Severine has such a huge capacity to love but won’t allow herself to love.
“Severine didn’t want to be crumbled into nothing. But she wanted to have that feeling. Severine wanted to know if she was really missing out – was there something to relationships that she just wasn’t seeing? Was it truly worth it?”
While I enjoyed the character development of the heroine, I felt somewhat let down by the way the male characters were portrayed. I am not confident that I understood them completely or the reasons behind their actions. Macsen remained a complete mystery to me. I believe that this is also due to the partly abstract writing style in this book. Ms Read writes beautifully from a narrative point of view but when her characters’ inner voices are concerned, I felt at times like I was presented with a puzzle that I could not solve regardless of how hard I tried. I walked away with my own interpretation of it but never quite sure whether I really got it. However, I believe this is something that will change as the author gets a few more notches under her belt. As much as I could not put this book down, the ending was anticlimactic for me as I was expecting a much more passionate and dramatic finale, but it will undoubtedly satisfy any HEA addict.