I have no idea how a book that had such a promising premise and a great set up derailed so incredibly for me as I was reading. And 'derailed' is a good term because I felt like I was 'reading' a slo-mo trainwreck. That sounds hyperbolic and I don't mean it to be. But the story just started to unravel in so many ways for me that until the end I did not like, in any way, a single character in this book.
Now, I have read a few of Marie Force's books. Some I've really liked and some that didn't work for me in small ways, but not to an extent that I've actively disliked them. I do enjoy her writing because I think she writes messy stories. By that I mean, she doesn't always color within the lines in a genre that sometimes feel it is one formula after the other. I respect that. But this book simply can't be put in the win column for me.
There are spoilers and salty language sprinkled liberally throughout this review so be warned....
First I have to say that every character in the book succumbed to one of two ailments: Big Ass Whiny Baby syndrome (BAWBS) or Super Self Righteousness-itis (SSR). Not one person remained immune.
As I mentioned above the set up and premise is really a good one. Ted Duffy is a pediatric oncologist who comes from a super awesome family and has four of the best friends ever. The guys, Ted, Parker, Smitty and Chip, have all grown up together and have known each other forever. They have a summer house they share and one weekend Smitty brings Caroline, a woman he had been dating for only a few weeks. When Ted and Caroline meet they fall instantly in love. For Ted, Caroline is THE ONE. And he's heartsick that she is Smitty's girl. For Caroline Ted is also brought lightning bolt of love. They part determined to let time and distance remove temptation.
I have no issues with love at first sight. I am a believer that people can connect quickly and for real, but honestly I wasn't sold on it here. I thought them both simply saying 'She's the one' and 'he's the one' was too simple. I didn't see it, I was told it. But that is ok. The premise is that they fall in love quickly in order to make it worthwhile when they have to break it to Smitty that they are in love.
The second time they meet there is no denying anything and they resolve to be together and work through the pain they must cause everyone. For her part, Caroline plans to break up with Smitty and she and Ted plan to tell him about their attraction. So far so good.
But of course things don't work out that way. Smitty overhears them talking and figures out what is going on. And this is where the story begins to run off the rails for me and where Smitty becomes the first to succumb to BAWBS. So he realizes that his girlfriend of 6-weeks and his best friend of 20 years have a thing for each other. Does he confront them? Ask them about it? regroup to think and talk it over with the other friends? No he starts playing childish head games to torture them. And then he picks up his toys and runs to Australia while everyone is so worried about what is going on with Poor Smitty. Never mind that he and Caroline had only been casually dating and that he knew she wasn't as into him as he was to her. No, all this becomes as dramatic and Chinese Opera.
So now that Caroline and Smitty are done she and Ted are free to pursue each other. They plan to tell the other friends that they are now dating but it doesn't work out quite that way. The other friends find out by accident. And this is where the other guys start to succumb to SSR. How could Ted do this to Smitty? He is ruining 20 years of friendship...blah blah blah.
But Ted and Caroline stay strong and are so in love. So in love in fact that within 3-weeks of being together they get married. At this point the train jumps the tracks. Everybody is so outraged that it is almost comical. Even Ted's mother who had been so concerned about her only son's long hours in a high stress job and his lack of personal life doesn't take a moment to think 'hmm, maybe I should get to know this girl who has been the only person my son has shown any real interest in in years' but rather 'how dare you cheat on your best friend with that cheating bitch who is a cheating bitch!!!'
So this goes on for some time with everyone giving them the cold shoulder, none of the friends coming to their more formal wedding (they had been married by a justice of the peace earlier). Mind you, no one seems at all concerned about Ted's state of mind, marrying a woman he barely knows, or wondering if she's a gold-digger or anything like that. No everyone is more concerned about how this will all affect poor Smitty. Sure, Ted can be construed a shitty friend for jumping into a relationship with his best friend's ex, but they are all just as terrible for not even trying to understand why he did this. No they are content to just wallow in their SSR.
At this point I am rooting hard for Ted and Caroline because, really, everyone else around them are just being assholes. In a real life situation like this, amongst a group of friends, people would be taking sides or some would be neutral not wanting to choose one friend over the other. Some would even be happy for Ted and telling Smitty to suck it up. It's not like Smitty and Caroline were married and she and Ted were sneaking around behind his back. The level of outrage simply didn't fit the perceived crime, imo.
So remember how I said I was rooting for Ted and Caroline at this point. Well, that is true until Ted succumbs to BAWBS. After all the 'I love you, no I love you more' and them telling each other it was worth the scorn of family and friends to be together and they pinky swear to stand just the two of them against the world...what does Ted do? Well he decides it is just to hard to live without all his friends around. He can't take their abandonment and censure. So he deserts his wife. Yup. He leaves her. Oh, he still loves her just can't be around her because she was the reason it all went south with his friends and family. So he takes a new job in a whole other state and stops wearing his wedding ring. My reaction at these developments was 'Are you shitting me?' And here the train falls off the tracks completely, down a mountainside.
At this point, Caroline is the only one who is still worth anything. I'll give Ms. Force credit, she makes Caroline dig in and try to fight for her marriage. For her this was the real deal and I have to say I felt it and I felt for her.
But by now I was so over every single person in this book that the only reason i didn't just close it and get on with my life is because it was so late in the story.
The kicker for me is that, guess what? Smitty finds his own true love in Australia and comes back all forgiving. Everything is a-ok now that he knows what love is. We call all be friends again! So now that Ted is back in the fold, he can come back to his wife because they have been formally given the blessing of Smitty. Well isn't that special!
I was really hoping that Caroline would tell Ted to just fuck off and then leave him to his precious friends. But she doesn't because she's so happy to have him back and tears up when he puts back on his wedding ring. Awwww. Not!
This book made me ragey. I can't recommend at all.