Initial reaction: Nope, this book was the worst in this series so far, and narratively showed more of a decline in the writing style. No imagination in the plot or character resonance whatsoever. I'll admit there were a few moments when I genuinely laughed (the "Macho Pikachu" line was funny, dangnabit), but it was such a slog to get through this crap that instead of taking me hours to read, it took days.
The nicest thing I can say about it was that the colors in the cover scheme were nice. The inside on the other hand - different story.
I debated a little while as to how I'd write this review, but for the sake of summary, this will be half discussion, half (constructive) venting.
I actually had more fun buddy reading this series with my bookish friend (with whom I've read the first two books in this series) than flying solo for this read. We had ideas and discussions about McGuire's expansions and New Adult as a whole that were food for thought, and I wish I could telegraph everything that we were able to discuss. She asked me if I was going to continue reading this series after the second one, and I said "Yeah, might as well - it's two more books. We can read it between us and discuss them when they release."
Well, two things happened in the time between me reading "Beautiful Redemption" and this book: my bookish friend moved away (she and her husband both got job ops in another state, which made me happy for them and sad at the same time), and another, I pretty much had to decide whether I'd still foot the bill for reading this. I did end up paying the $5.99 for this from a gift card I had on Amazon (which I assure you, I bought other books I knew I'd enjoy). Some might ask me: "Rose, you hated this series from the beginning, and you were still willing to give this series a chance?"
Well, considering I read K.A. Tucker's "Ten Tiny Breaths" series and hated all of them save for "Five Ways to Fall" - I figured there was a chance that my mind would change in the progression of a series (and I've been impressed since following K.A. Tucker's narratives from there). There were some reads that worked the same way with me for Samantha Young and other NA authors. I haven't completely written off New Adult as a category either, I've read titles I've really liked, but I've been hard pressed to find anything from McGuire that would suggest there's some narrative growth and resonance that'd connect with me personally. Was there a chance this would be different? Maybe, but I figured the only thing I had to lose was $6 and time. Some would probably say I shouldn't have even bothered putting money in the author's pocket, but considering I paid to read Raani York's "Dragonbride" earlier this year, I figured this couldn't be worse than that experience.
So the verdict: Not to sugarcoat it - it's the worst in this series thus far. The long and short of it was that this featured very bland, underdeveloped characters, dialogue that was drawn out with more self-insertion-y comments that made me shake my head, and for another thing: this was really...boring and tedious considering the scheme of events of the novel. I mean, it's hard to follow characters that you feel are pretty much being force fed to you from point one and that the heroine is pretty much Abby Abernathy 4.0 for voice and recounting of events. But the more vexing thing is that this devolved into a drama that was so over the top that I shook my head and said "Yeah, even if Jamie McGuire ends up writing five more books in this series or even a new one entirely, I'm not going to follow her as an author even if she co-writes with an author I actually do like." Reason being, the quality of the book isn't there for the price tag or for the time taken for the read.
First, there's cases of awkward writing that are more frequent than not:
"Before I had time to stop my expression, I narrowed my eyes and sneered."
"His lips baptized my skin in a line of tiny kisses..."
Then there are contradictions in the text, such as Taylor saying he has a master's degree in Women's Studies bud didn't go to graduate school. This was my comment on the matter for one of my status updates on Goodreads:
The reason I'm quoting this is because it's a contradiction: he says he doesn't have a graduate degree, but then says he has a masters in Women's Studies, but then doubles back and says he was kidding about the degree and then said he'd taken a few courses in women's studies.
Dude, what level of a degree do you think a masters is? It's graduate school, it's considered a "graduate" degree. Not to mention you pretty much contradicted yourself in the scheme of the conversation to Falyn. She should've seen through you lying because of the contradiction, but she didn't until you pointed out the truth.
Yeah...this likely didn't see a final edit for the turns of awkward phrasing and logic for conversational flow.
Another problem comes with the repetition for story elements/scenes: in this book, we have a laundry room scene (there was a similar scene in "Walking Disaster"), a scene where Taylor walks in the shower on Falyn and she giggles after the fact even when she tells him to get out (Travis and Abby did this in "Beautiful Disaster"), Taylor makes references to try to "bag" Falyn (Even though Falyn's like "No" -by this point I want to facepalm every time I see the word "bag" - it's such a stupid word for having sex with someone) and Falyn refers to Taylor as a stray puppy (which Abby made about Travis as well in "Beautiful Disaster." That's too many narrative references to be a coincidence, and it doesn't work as an ode to the original book because the nature of the inclusion feels repetitive. There are more references like that through the book, but think about how much of that is from the *beginning* of the story.
Taylor is just as much of a misogynistic jerk as his brothers. It's not made okay by the introduction that people "analyze him" unnecessarily and that he took a few courses in women's studies. Just because he took classes in that doesn't make him an expert in women or more likely to seduce women. Yet he seems to think otherwise. *sighs*
Eventually, after some lusting and bickering between the two, they end up going to meet Taylor's family and traveling back home (Falyn has her reasons for this, which she realizes she can use Taylor to get what she wants), and Falyn ends up in the middle of an altercation because she ends up kissing his twin by accident, thinking it was Taylor when it wasn't.
But really, that wasn't even the worst of things because in the last 40%, there's a lot of unloaded drama that comes in waves and continuous back and forth.
Drama #1: You guys remember little Olive from Beautiful Oblivion? Well, she's Falyn's kid. Turns out a teacher had sex (Bleh, that's an obvious power disadvantage there) with her when she was barely 18 and cheated on his wife. She had the child, gave up Olive to another family because her parents forced her to for the sake of her education, which she didn't end up pursuing because of their control. But Taylor arranges for them to make a single memory which seems...nice. But don't think that makes him a redeemable character. Nope, not by a long shot.
Drama #2: So, even considering the spoiler for the first notation, Falyn can't have kids, sadly, which I felt for her on. She and Taylor fight over this factor since it conflicts with his plans for the future, and she's ready to leave him to spare him the grief. He gets mad, walks out, and it seems they're apart for several days before making up.
Drama #3: Taylor is a jerk because [ during the time he was apart from her, he cheated on Falyn by having sex with another woman while he was drunk, no protection. Falyn discovers this when they're in the middle of a love scene and he's drunk. She stops the advance and mentions he's gotta get tested for STDs. He's known this the entire time and doesn't tell her until that moment. Falyn, I thought, was entirely too forgiving of this entire scenario, especially considering what happens next.
Drama #4: 89% into the novel, which is uber, uber rushed for events, Taylor and Falyn discover that the other woman is pregnant and giving up her child - presumably to Taylor since she can't raise the child. This hurts Falyn because of spoilery events I mentioned in Drama #2. She's afraid she'll lose in a double scenario that happened to her before.
Drama #5: Taylor gets into some kind of fire accident and is presumed dead. I'm guessing that was just thrown in for the sake of drama and making Falyn cry, as if the woman doesn't have enough to cry over.
Drama #6: So things get to a breakneck pace and for no reason at all but just to have an HEA, turns out Falyn got pregnant after all. So why was there all this point of making it like she couldn't have children in the first place?! I almost would've respected the narrative more if Falyn had a coming to terms and trust that came with those events, rather than just the thrown in revelation.
I don't understand this rollercoaster measure of events. First it took forever to get to the central conflict of the novel in the beginning - coupled with all the misogyny and typical NA cliches, and then the latter part of the book heaps these events all on you in one go. There were some events in the middle that brought back the characters from the previous books (and Travis and Abby still felt like the standout characters, though they weren't in this book as much as previous ones), but it seemed to take up narrative space to divert from developing the ongoing issues between Taylor and Falyn.
For the record: I'm done. Last book of this series I'll read (because apparently the next book, "Beautiful Burn" won't be the last one, there's another which will be a sequel to "Beautiful Oblivion"). It's also the last book of McGuire's I'll read. It's just too much mishandling of sensitive and important issues and there's no rhyme or reason for these events, makes them seem trivial, really. I wanna feel for it, but not if it's just going to be handled in a hodgepodge, uneven way for drama. There was the potential for it to be better than it was, but since it was thrown in all in one swoop with very little gravity (some of it was, but it was hard to palpate and Taylor really didn't feel the gravity of what he'd done in all of it - how is he supposed to be a romantic hero?).
Not recommended. No more, I'm just utterly and completely done.
Overall score: 0/5 stars