"It Ends with Us" by Colleen Hoover
I have a complex relationship with romances.
While I love me a rom-com, I entirely acknowledge the fact that the perfect-as-can-be, formulaic meet cutes that fill the big screen and cover the pages of most romance novels give women everywhere – myself included – unrealistic expectations regarding love.
Given the complexity of this relationship, and my concern that the continued viewing and/or reading of works in this genre just perpetuates these romantic misconceptions, I usually only dose myself with romance through film.
The impact on my life – and my perceptions – is decidedly less significant with film.
If watching a film is taking a pill, reading a book is receiving an intravenous injection.
That said, when I saw Colleen Hoover’s books filling up my Instagram, I was intrigued.
Who is this lady, and why is everyone having so much fun at a party to which I wasn’t invited?
“Well, invitations be damned, Imma hop on Amazon and crash this party,” I thought to myself on night not so long ago as I drunkenly acquired an impressive collection of Hoover’s books – probably immediately after watching Bridget Jones’ Baby or some other romance, as this is when I’m at my most vulnerable.
When the books arrived on my doorstep, I approached them with a level of caution that some would reserve for sauntering up to a venomous snake.
“They won’t hurt you,” I reminded myself.
“You’re 35-years-old, you understand how it works,” I continued, flipping through the pages of each before deciding that It Ends With Us would be my first Colleen Hoover experience.
The thing is, I do know some truths about romance.
In the real world, not every meet is cute.
Not all issues can be overcome.
And it doesn’t always work out in the end.
But what I didn’t know, at the time, was whether Colleen Hoover lived and wrote by these rules?
I would find out, as I moved through this novel.
As I started, I became acquainted with Lily Bloom, an unfortunately named character – really, though, I cringed – who has, in her past, one significant romance, and is about the partake in a second.
Her partner in her first experience with love was a homeless teenager named Atlas, who she discovered was squatting in an abandoned home in her neighborhood.
Their love ended dramatically – and rather tragically – leaving Lily with some lingering issues she hasn’t really confronted.
On page two of this novel, we meet the man who will become her second great love – a neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid.
From literally the moment they met… on a rooftop (because that's where normal people meet) Ryle tells Lily that, despite the fact that he’s desperate to get into her pants, he simply wouldn't be good for her. The reason he gives for this declaration – he can't do long term relationships. More importantly, even, he doesn't want to do long-term relationships.
But when Lily resists his efforts towards a one-night stand, his tune changes pretty fucking quickly.
He agrees to give it a "trial run." – which Lily basically interprets as a four-, maybe five-, night stand.
So, imagine Lily's surprise when – with their bodies basically still smelling of the sex in which they oh-so-recently engaged – self-proclaimed one-night-stand-aholic Ryle not only says that he just can't quit her, but also volunteers to join her for dinner...with her mother...
And as if a first dinner with a Mom isn’t scary enough, to Lily’s dismay she recognizes the waiter from the moment he arrives to take their drink order. As you might have guessed – particularly if you have a penchant for romance – the waiter is none other than Atlas, her former flame.
*End Spoiler Alert*
This puts Lily in quite the predicament.
Stick with the hot neurosurgeon with toe-curling sex skills.
Or return to the formerly-homeless-now-a-waiter man from her past.
Seems like a relatively easy choice to me.
Though, I am about four seasons into my rewatching-all-of-ER marathon, so my ability to resist a man in scrubs...who is good with his hands...is admittedly at an all-time low.
I’m not sure why he’s randomly itching what I can only assume are his rock-fucking-hard abs in that GIF, but…okay.
I got distracted. Sorry. Back to the review.
Unfortunately for Lily, though, what may seem an easy decision is almost immediately complicated. As it would turn out, before she even has a chance to make a decision, she discovers a scary truth about Ryle.
The truth she discovers not only threatens her relationship with this perfect-on-paper-and-when-his-chisled-body-is-pressed-against-you man, it also forces her to deal with issues from her past that she has, up to this point, been relatively successful in burying.
And it was at this point that the book came alive for me.
Ultimately, it wasn’t the truth itself, but the way in which the author revealed this truth – the amount of time she gave us as readers to form a real attachment to Ryle, just as Lily was forming an attachment to him – that was profoundly effective, and allowed for something that is oh-so-rare in the world of romance – the eliciting of authentic feelings from the reader.
Yes, admittedly, this book has a little bit of schmaltz.
I mean, his name is Ryle… and the other guy’s name is Atlas?
One guy’s a neurosurgeon… and the other is homeless.
It’s not real – or even that particularly realistic.
And a lack of believably is, usually, the kiss of death for me.
Normally, this would have me writing off the book as fluff and relegating it to the 2-3 cocktail shelf – where I store books I will donate to charity or loan to people I know won’t return them.
But this book wouldn’t be at home on this shelf.
Buried under all of the romantic fluff – because there was some – and the relatively graphic sex – because there was some of that, too – was serious, authentic, absorbing, soul-purifying meaning.
When I finished this book, I ugly cried for a solid five minutes, letting the ending in particular, and the book as a whole, wash over me again and again.
After reading this book, I understand all of the fuss surrounding CoHo (a nickname I learned on Instagram and now, having read a book by her, feel like I’m licensed to use).
What I learned in reading this book is that, though her books fall squarely into the category of romance – and contain some of the tropes that romance-haters despise – Colleen Hoover understands the rules of real-life romance.
Unlike in typical romance novels, where conflicts are minor and easily overcome – allowing for that happy ending that’s basically requisite in the genre – this book contained serious conflicts that, despite effort and desire to get past them, simply can’t be conquered.
This is a book I will think about – and recommend to others – for quite some time. And, given the number of books that cross my desk – and my admitted relative disdain for the romance genre – that really says something.
I give it 4 out of 5 cocktails.
It was, honestly, very close to a perfect five for me. The only factor holding it back was the ending, which, while satisfying, was still a bit too tidy to ring quite true.
Read it, and you’ll understand what I mean.
What to read… what to read… Maybe another Colleen Hoover novel?
To see what I pick, follow me, here.
What’s your go-to genre? Tell me about it in the comments, below.