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Sunday, June 12, 2016

REVIEW: Forever and Always (1-3) by E.L. Todd

This collection includes the first three books in Todd's Forever & Always series.

#1 Only for You

Scarlet and Sean have been best friends for years. A wreck when his girlfriend dumps him, Sean and Scarlet spend time together but when one drunken night they sleep together, Scarlet confesses her feelings and he doesn't feel the same. Heartbroken, Scarlet flees to Seattle to be with her brother and put the pieces of her life back together including repairing their damaged relationship and rebounding with her brother's hot best friend.
Both Sean and Scarlet are miserable but she probably would have moved on if Sean hadn't arrived to profess his love and apologize.

For me, this started out okay. I'm a sucker for the best friends to lovers trope but Scarlet and Sean's relationship felt forced and lacked finesse. I just do not care for Scarlet's character. She's not much by the way of admirable female protagonist. She stays silent about sexual harassment at work and at the slightest setback with her love life, Scarlet drops everything and runs away.  I just can't admire and feel for her in any way since once in Seattle she continues to make irrational choices that hurt herself and others.

Sean isn't much better and isn't your typical 'hero' character.  In fact, he's pretty douchey.  I'll give him a bit of credit that he probably didn't know Scarlet was as into him as she said she was but don't sleep with your best friend, then bed her friend and co-worker (in your friend's bed) the morning after.

I'd have been okay with the ending but moving on ruined things for me.

#2 Forever and Always

Scarlet and Sean are back together but don't blink it probably won't last...and it doesn't.  Sean wants her to come back to New York but she just isn't ready. Agreeing to a long distance relationship, Sean heads home only to find his ex, Penelope, at his doorstep claiming that she's pregnant and he's the baby daddy.

Pretty much acting like a huge jerk, Sean breaks Scarlet's heart again before learning that Penelope is using him. When Scarlet learns Sean has gone on a depressed bender, she gets him back on track but says they can't be together since he's hurt her too much already.  He shows back up to woo her by the end and prove that she is what he really wants.

This book made me really angry. Sean is a big jerk and Scarlet is an idiot.  I'm not sure I like the secondary characters either who are supporting this destructive relationship between the two. More alarming is the violent characterization of Sean when he all but attacked Penelope - he may not have hit her but he thought about it and I really disliked the verbal abuse.

#3 Edge of Love

Sean and Scarlet are happy and engaged. They travel to his family home in CT to share the news but it is a pretty terrible visit. The environment is tense, family secrets are revealed and there is an unexpected visitor that ruins the weekend. If that wasn't as bad as it could get, when they return to Seattle, they argue over the wedding, leaving Scarlet to move out. When another secret is revealed, their relationship reaches a downward spiral with their future in question.

At this point, I kept reading to find some redemption for the characters but there was none. These two are just not good for each other. Their relationship is destructive and degrading.  Okay, they are really into each other physically and like having sex. Is it necessary for Sean to call her a slut and a whore even if he admires her behavior? Totally uncalled for and not sexy to read.

Sean's reaction to basically everything should have Scarlet and readers seeing red flashing warning lights. Freaking out about who she talks to and what she does? Then...Scarlet has to grovel and apologize?  No. Thanks. This is abusive behavior plain and simple.

At the end, I was just over it all. These two deserve each other and I wasn't all that shocked or surprised by the ending and what the outcome might mean. It reminded me a bit too much of the forced and added plot twists in Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed by E.L.James to try to make it seem like there is more content that just relationship drama and hot sex.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed especially since I enjoyed Todd's Timeless series (books 1 & 2). Scarlet and Sean are just so flawed and unlikable that I couldn't move past these feelings as a reader. Even the erotic scenes just didn't work and lacked tension and finesse due to the toxic relationship between the main couple.  I do think Todd has improved her writing over time and the evident characterization and pacing flaws are less prominent in other works.

Final rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Thank you to @InkslingerPR for the review copy.

#foreverandalways #eltodd #romance #angst #newadult #review

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