Friday, March 30, 2018

Jen's Review: Hurts to Love You

Hurts to Love You by Alisha Rai
Publisher: Avon (March 27, 2018)
Series: Forbidden Hearts, 3
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Being bad never felt so good, in the third novel in Alisha Rai’s sexy Forbidden Hearts series!

Well-behaved women don’t lust after men who love to misbehave.

Heiress Evangeline Chandler knows how to keep a secret . . . like her life-long crush on the tattooed hottie who just happens to be her big brother’s friend. She’s a Chandler, after all, and Chandlers don’t hook up with the help. Then again, they also don’t disobey their fathers and quit their respectable jobs, so good-girl rules may no longer apply.

Gabriel Hunter hides the pain of his past behind a smile, but he can’t hide his sudden attraction to his friend’s sheltered little sister. Eve is far too sweet to accept anything less than forever and there’s no chance of a future between the son of a housekeeper and the town’s resident princess.

When a wedding party forces Eve and Gabe into tight quarters, keeping their hands off each other will be as hard as keeping their clothes on. The need that draws them together is stronger than the forces that should shove them apart . . . but their sparks may not survive the explosion when long-buried secrets are finally unearthed.

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Jen's Review:

Hurts to Love You by Alisha Rai is the third in the Forbidden Hearts trilogy, and it’s a strong end to an excellent series. Before we start though, you really MUST read the first two books in the series before tackling this one. Hurts to Love You is absolutely NOT a stand-alone romance; don’t even try. In order to understand Hurts to Love You, readers must understand the complicated family and friend dynamics of the Kanes and Chandlers, not to mention the hard feelings and lingering resentments. In fact, I had to go back and make myself a family tree/flow chart to keep the complicated threads straight in my head while reading book 3. Even if you have read the previous books, you’ll need to get yourself up to speed. And hey! If you’re lucky enough not to have read the previous books in the series, you can just binge on them now and skip all of the terrible waiting that the rest of us have been doing.

In Hurts to Love You, Eve Chandler is a young 24 year old woman who has had a crush on Gabe Hunter forever. He was raised with the Kane family because his mother was their housekeeper. So even though he’s not one of the family, he’s profoundly and deeply immersed in the extensive, long-standing family drama. For what it’s worth, Gabe’s sister is also introduced in this book. And she’s a self-made millionaire tech genius, and I have already begged Alisha Rai on Twitter to give Rhiannon her own book. Trust me, you’ll want the same thing once you meet her.

The book opens with Gabe and Eve trying out wedding cakes as a proxy for Livvy, who’s been feeling sick. The sexual tension is as thick and delicious as the buttercream frosting, and it’s just the most delicious bubbly, buzzy feeling for the reader: WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN!? The reader quickly realizes that Eve has feeling for Gabe that she thinks will never be reciprocated. Gabe is ten or twelve years older than Eve, the age of her older brother, Nicholas. When they were teenagers, Gabe, Paul and Nicolas were friends, and she knows Gabe has always thought of her as more of a “pesky younger sister” rather than a woman.

One of the best parts of this book was watching Eve become more confident in herself. Her feelings of duty and obligation to the Chandler family name and reputation have been stifling. Nicholas, her older brother and hero of the first book of the series, treats her like she’s still 16. She’s warily accepted his domineering, but in this book, as she gives herself permission to pursue Gabe, she also gives herself permission to stand up to her brother’s overbearance. One of the reasons I’ll always stan for Alisha Rai is because she writes fascinating, interesting heroines. Eve may be young, but she’s determined to be in charge of her own destiny.

Gabe is just a big old cuddly bear and a fascinating character in his own right. I don’t ever think of  “dude falling for friend’s sister” as one of my favorite tropes, but every time I come across it, I tend to enjoy it. Bros just really torture the fuck out of themselves when they have the hots for someone they think they can’t have and shouldn’t want---it doesn’t even matter to Gabe that he and Nicolas aren’t close anymore. That boundary between their ages felt like it was a million miles wide, and now, all of a sudden, he can’t stop thinking of her. Gabe’s coping strategies for his feelings boil down to one of two responses: run or hide. His romance with Eve gives him the opportunity to explore his own big secrets, which pulls him right into the Kane-Chandler family drama.

This book made me think about what I need to see as a readers to believe in their HEA. I love it when characters build each other up and make each other stronger, not in a needy or unhealthy way, but as true partners. Alisha Rai shows Gabe and Eve complimenting each other’s strengths and respecting their independence, but also their need for mutual support and understanding. I believed their relationship would work, despite the obstacles and differences.

So now that I’ve raved about it, let me tell you why I knocked off a half a star. I couldn’t help but feel like the work of wrapping up the series overburdened this book. The resolution to the Gabe + Eve romance felt rushed, and it was clearly to make way not only for loose ends but also for new plot points that affected all of the characters. It feels a little churlish to complain about this because the complexity and richness of this series is completely satisfying as a whole, but I liked Gabe and Eve. I wanted more time with them, and the ending of their story was a crowded party with lots of characters rather than an intimate gathering of two. This is a minor quibble, and one that I’m sure other readers won’t mind. This is a wonderful series, one that is destined to be a classic, living on keeper shelves and in kindle favorite collections for years to come.

4 1/2 STARS! 

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Jen received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, via Edelweiss.

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Thanks for the review, Jen! As a fellow Rai fan, I completely agree with all of this and also need Rhiannon to get her own book ASAP!


Until Next Time,

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