Once in a blue moon you come across a book that simply stuns you and marks you so deeply with its story, that you never quite stop thinking about it, often finding your way back to it as a way of seeking solace in a fantasy that never gets old or stops affecting you. The beautiful tale of Elizabeth and Christian is the story I escape to when I want to feel a whole spectrum of emotions and to remind myself how powerful a great book can truly be. I never thought anything could match the intensity of Take This Regret or its impact on me as a reader, but this very moving sequel not only matches it in intensity, it exceeds it and adds a whole new emotional layer to an already beloved storyline. This book crushed me, destroyed me, took my breath away by striking at the very core of everything I am as a woman, and then filled me with such overwhelming hope that there is indeed light at the end of every tunnel, as dark and as long as that tunnel may be.
“Ten years, Christian, and it’s still the same. You consume me… You still manage to make my stomach feel like it’s bottoming out and my heart beat like it might pound right out of my chest… You make me ache.”
We watched them become best friends and fall in love in Lost to You, we saw them make life-changing mistakes, part ways, meet again and painfully rebuild what they should have never lost in Take This Regret, and now we finally get to see their future once the curtain closes on their happily-ever-after and life happens. Christian and Elizabeth have been through more sorrow than any couple should ever be faced with, old regrets and painful memories constantly looming over them and making them appreciate every bit of happiness that comes their way. They’ve loved each other for most of their adult lives and their bond is indestructible, their deep devotion to one another a constant reminder of what they almost lost forever.
“I love you, Christian. Always. There is nothing that could make me stop loving you. Nothing that could make me stop needing you. You are my start and you are my finish, the one who’s going to be there for everything in between.”
But when the worst kind of tragedy strikes, this young couple is left adrift in a sea of pain and sadness, unable to grasp onto any sliver of hope. We are told their story by following two parallel timelines, one in the past and one in the present, their joining point being the devastating event they are forced to overcome. One moment, we see them as two people in love, a young couple basking in the happiness of what they have finally created, desperately in love with each other and committed to giving their daughter the family they all longed for. And then the next, we see them in the aftermath of their loss, as two people stranded and crippled by their pain, having turned away from each other and from their future together.
“He was a reminder of everything that should be and what I couldn’t have. A symbol of what I had lost.”
Elizabeth’s pain is possibly the most true-to-life emotion I have ever lived through in a book. It is all-consuming, heart-breaking, stifling in its magnitude. The pages are heavy with her sadness, making us feel every nuance of her crippling despair. Nothing is forced, her recovery from an utterly broken woman who is unable to give any of herself to the man she loves, to one who learns to fight for her life again is meticulously timed and we are there for the entire journey.
“Christian’s presence slipped just under the surface of my skin. And it hurt and it longed, whispered a call I didn’t think I’d ever be able to heed. Because that whisper burned, the memory of that beautiful man ingrained so deeply in my spirit that it now felt like a burden.”
We also hear Christian’s voice and experience his emotions as well, but his desperation mainly stems from losing the love of his life and not knowing how to take her pain away. His fight is two-fold – he fights for his own sanity and he fights for the family he is unwilling to give up on. Christian’s love for Elizabeth is the only bright light during their turmoil, giving us hope that they could overcome all.
“I loved her. Loved her with everything, with my life, with my soul.”
There are truly no words that could do justice to an incredible book such as this one. From beginning to end, I felt like my emotions were not my own – they belonged to the characters, they belonged to the storyline, they belonged to that special place that Christian and Elizabeth hold in my heart and I kept hoping with all my being that they would find again the happiness they so deserved. Like with all Ms Jackson’s books, by the time I reached the last page, I felt like I had just run a marathon. She seems to get me every single time and, quite frankly, I think I’m becoming afraid of her.
This is a stellar conclusion to an unforgettable love story, one that will forever be my emotional pot of gold.
“How had we pushed each other away when we needed each other most?”