I can’t remember the last time a book shook me so deeply and so personally from the very first page, let alone for it to take days, even weeks, to fully process all the emotions coursing through me, yet this book did just that. Tackling one of the most challenging tropes in Romance—cheating—this is the kind of story that pushes the rosy-coloured glasses right off your nose and forces you to truly understand the characters’ perspectives, while silencing your own preconceived notions and judgements. The lead characters are married and we meet them at the very moment when one of them is caught in adultery. What follows is an emotional, at times painfully raw tale of two people who find themselves having to not only re-examine what they thought they knew about each other, but also of themselves and of their own needs and wants. It’s a story of forgiveness and redemption as much as it is a story of self-discovery and growth, and every bit of it is done just right. Without glorifying or trivialising cheating in any way, Alison Rhymes shows that she is not afraid to get her hands dirty when it comes to exploring sensitive or complex topics in relationships, doing so carefully and thoughtfully. She will twist you up and wring you out, make you question everything you hold to be true about life, love, and happily-ever-afters, which is made all the more impressive by the fact that this is a debut novel.
I married a man I’ve known most of my life, and also not at all.
With no slow build-up or ease-you-in scenario, the story gut punches you in the first few pages with the heroine walking in on her husband cheating on her with another woman. June and Drew McKenna have been married for five years, but they’ve been friends for most of their lives. Drew is a hot-shot quarterback, while June has put all her dreams and ambitions aside to give her husband his. We meet them at their lowest ebb and, as more and more details of Drew’s infidelity come to light, we watch them slowly navigate through the shards of their broken marriage.
“I don’t know how to stop, Drew. I don’t know how to do this. To pretend I’m not suspicious of everything you do. Every minute of every day. Do you know how many times I stopped to wonder if you were with her today? Or yesterday? I don’t know how to not hate you for this.”
There is grieving, anger, guilt, and everything in between, but through it all, we stand witness as two people who still care deeply about each other fight for something that could very well be broken beyond repair. June begins to find her feet and take charge of her life, while Drew is forced to come to grips with not only the consequences of the choices he’s made, but also with breaking the heart of the most important person in his life.
“I didn’t do any of this because of anything you’ve done. It’s because I’m a fucking coward, June. I want you to remember that. Hold on tight to it. Hold on to that hate for me. I deserve every bit of it.”
The book is told from both June and Drew’s points of view, offering the reader insight into both characters’ thoughts and emotions, as well as the gradual changes inside them. The very real possibility of losing each other forever forces them to begin again, to get to know one another in ways that seemed impossible before, and to start over their marriage the way it should have started all along.
“Forgiveness never comes quickly. It can’t be rushed. There is grace in granting forgiveness, but that same grace must happen while waiting for forgiveness. You must give it time.”
With the perfect balance of pathos and well-placed steam, Alison Rhymes delivers a story that offers a view of love that is imperfect, hopeful, forgiving, and, ultimately, built on choice.
We’re both so hopelessly entwined, neither of us can ever give up on the other.