This book was really quite interesting. Celine and Max have known each other since they were kids, growing up almost as close as siblings. Max had been engaged to be married but his fiancee died. In mourning he turns to Celine for comfort and the two drift into a relationship. They are very sensible about it. Max acknowledges that he probably won't love Celine as deeply and passionately as he had his now dead fiancee. Celine, for her part, is fine with that. The two of them embark on a very sensible married existence.
Twelve years later Max informs Celine that he has had an affair and is in love with the woman in question. Celine forces Max to move out and begins her own process of re-invention.
But even though the two seem to come to terms with the marriage being over, Max finds himself unable to stay away from Celine especially when he sees that other men begin to move on her once the break-up becomes public knowledge. And Celine can't seem to keep herself from accepting his help when she knows she should be turning him away.
One thing I found very interesting about this book was that, despite it being in the Harl/Sil line, they actually allowed the husband to be very unsympathetic. Usually in the category romances (especially what I have found in my recent foray into cheating husbands plots) they generally allow the man to go only so far. He can have an emotional (or imagined emotional) attachment with another woman but not a physical one. Also they are careful not to make him more of a jerk than he has to be.
But in this case, Max really crosses the line on many levels. Not only is he in love with this other woman (he reminds his wife that he was never in love with her) but he also had a physical affair with her. The other woman in question, isn't a villainess. She is as much a victim of Max as his wife is. Also, we are allowed to see him interacting with his wife while he is supposedly in the throes of this deep infatuation. There is one scene where Max is making love with Celine (this is before he confesses his love for the other woman) and as a reader you are intensely aware that he isn't just making love to his wife, he has more going on in his head. Later in the book after the two are separated, Celine confronts him about that lovemaking and I don't think he acquits himself very well in that explanation.
While Max is definitely in the wrong here, Celine is problematic too. She is entirely too much in her head. Imo, she make things way too easy for Max. After he has confessed about his love for this other woman, at one point he is gratified that she is taking it so well. I thought she took it too well. It was too matter of fact. It was almost as if they were discussing a contract or something. of course, inside she is hurt and ragey but she doesn't let that really show, so Max almost feels justified in his decision. Her practical reaction in the wake of his confession seems to confirm the luke-warmness of her feelings for him.
I felt very bad for Celine. I wanted her to rail, and call him a son-of-a bitch and to throw his clothes on the lawn and set them on fire. But she was way too civilized for that. Instead she had a lot of inner dialogue and suffered a lot.
Of course the two get back together and I wondered how they'd reconcile his supposedly awesome love for this other woman with him staying with Celine. I think it was a somewhat typical solution but it actually worked for this book.
One thing that stunned me in a good way was the scene with the other woman. She wasn't some red fingernailed hoochie. She was quite sympathetic herself and I felt very bad for her.
While I wasn't a great fan of Max, I respect what the author tried to do with him. She did a good job of conveying his complex and often confusing feelings.
This is really a 3.5 star book for me.