Books about cheating SOBs used to be deal-breakers for me, but then I started reading some books that actually handled the subject with care and complexity, portraying the characters in a complex light with nuance. One I read recently is a historical fiction novel called BELOVED ENEMY that involves a love triangle between the heroine, the hero, and the other woman, who is basically the hero's common-law wife. Rather than being infuriated, I found myself fascinated by the characters, especially the OW, who I ended up liking more than the heroine by the end.
I had friends who tried to read Molly McAdams's books and ended up hating them because of the cheating (I guess cheating and love triangles are common themes in her books). I told myself, "Well, okay, maybe this isn't for me - but on the other hand, maybe it is. I won't know unless I give it the old college try."
Well, I gave it the old college try... and I'm speechless. Because this book lacked nuance. It lacked subtlety. It lacked depth. This is a book about trash people and their attempts to romanticize their selfish, selfish lust as love.
KC "Kamryn" Cunningham is racehorse royalty. Her trash parents are trying to force her into a marriage with a trash popped-collar sleazebag, and when she catches them all laughing villainously around a table talking about "merging" their racehorse empire, that is the last straw. She flees Kentucky for Oregon where she inexplicably has enough funds to not just rent her own apartment but also buy and run her own bakery, with paid employees. Which... okay.
Her friend, Kinlee, is happily married, and in the tradition of happily married people everywhere, decides that what her BFF desperately needs is a boyfran. But KC turns down every guy she ever meets... until she meets this one total hottie at her friend's party: the very married Brody Saco.
I'd found everything I'd never even known I'd been looking for...in him. I could feel it in the way I felt like I needed to be closer to him than I already was, [...] the way I was physically aching to know everything about him. And yet, I felt like I knew everything there was to know about him, and we still hadn't said a word (29).
She literally bumps into him at a party and immediately decides that they're soulmates.
WITHOUT. SAYING. A. WORD. TO. HIM.
The next 300 pages is just pages and pages of unnecessary trash people drama. KC tells us, over and over, that she can't stand that he's married, that she's going to wait...but oh, she can't wait, she just can't help herself, she's not that kind of girl, she's not like other mistresses, she's a good person...
NO. You a cheater.
"I do not want an AFFAIR. I don't know what something between us could be called, but that word doesn't do what's happening between us justice. But I know that my marriage is over, I know I want you more than I want my next breath, and I know I would be insane to walk out that door and away from you" (57).
Still a cheater.
"I wanted to stay away from him, and I tried to start a relationship with you. But after meeting Brody, it was over for me. There is no one in the world who will ever be able to make me feel what he does just by saying my name. Not a day goes by that I don't hate myself for what we're doing. Not a day goes by that I don't hate myself for breaking up someone's marriage even though everyone already knows it was over" (199).
The sleaze doesn't even wear a wedding ring and the first time he calls the heroine is after midnight because it's booty call o' clock in his trash people calendar, I guess. Literally everything that comes out of his mouth sounds like some creepy excuse that the womanizing d-bag in a Lifetime movie would say to his mistress to string her along. "Baby, you know I'll leave her, she means nothing to me, I just can't right now, think about us, think about where we'll be in five years..."
You're probably wondering about the other woman. Where does she fit into this? Well, the author decided to put KC on a pedestal by making the wife as crazy and unlikable as possible. She drains Brody's bank accounts to buy useless trash. She threatens to commit suicide. She mocks Brody about their child's death and then blames it on him. She lies to her parents that he's abusing her and planning to kill her. They then get a lawyer to blackmail him into staying with her and try to get him fired from his job. Oh, and it turns out that she's been cheating this whole time, too, but with more than one person instead of her #Soulmate, so she's a slut, but KC is the savior of the hero.
And that is literally how it's framed. Olivia, the wife, got pregnant so he would marry her, used the child for blackmail to get him to leave the Army, and then leveraged said child's death to force him to stay with her, with threats to harm herself thrown in for fun. All of Brody's relatives and friends have been trying to get him to stray from the marriage for years, despite the fact that he's married, and everyone praises KC when they find out that she's sleeping with Brody because his marriage is "killing him." Throughout the book, everyone talks about how "bad" divorce is, including Queen Trash herself, AKA, KC. Which, okay, divorce is not great - but if you're that miserable and you're living in a marriage filled with abuse - you should leave. I know it isn't easy, that sometimes it's incredibly difficult, but it just made me so sick that Brody decided to drag someone else down into that toxic environment with him instead of freaking doing something about it. I thought it was ridiculous how Brody knew that his wife had mental issues, but didn't think about getting her help until it became a convenient excuse for him to leave his wife for KC. Yes, she was "faking" having bipolar disorder... but if someone is pulling those kinds of stunts they probably have other issues. Olivia is a trash person but so is Brody for letting these issues fester & cheating.
Oh, and then the piece of trash totally goes alpha-ape-shit whenever someone flirts with KC, and when he finds out who she reaaaaaally is towards the end, guess who suddenly gets all preachy about fakery and lies? Like he didn't just spend 80% of the book blissfully swimming in his own sea of deception and lies to cheat on his wife. I'M SORRY I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUND OF THE TRASH.
In the foreword and afterword, the author says that this romance is based on a true story (the foreword appears to be written by the couple in question themselves). I'm not sure how many liberties she took with the story - I imagine a lot, hopefully, to protect the identities of those involved - and I'm not going to pass judgement on the author's friends, because, you know - you do you. It's nice that the author stuck by her friends. But these characters, the fictional counterparts, are trash people. I hated Brody. I hated KC. I hated Olivia. I hated KC's family. The only people I liked were Kinlee and Jace and I felt sorry for Aiden, because he seemed like a great guy and it sucks for him that he fell for a trash person. Molly McAdams writes very well, and except for some parts towards the ends where I skimmed, I found myself unable to look away from this train wreck. But man, I hated these characters so, so much and can't quite bring myself to give this book anything higher than a 1*.
1 out of 5 stars
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