"Given into this sensation, feel I've run too far
Cannot see beyond emotion, see what the options are
With no faith to trust the notion, I fear I'm losing all control
Kill sweet desire, faith may numb the trial,
But can you run all your life?
Kill sweet desire, truth will make a liar,
You can run but not hide..."
- lyrics from "Desire" by Poets of the Fall
I could quote this entire song to kind of summarize the thematic in sync with Megan Hart's "Tear You Apart." And it's one of my favorite songs because it summarizes the push and pull one feels when they're overtaken by desire - this need to be with someone, whether it may be physical, mental, emotional intimacy of some sort - someone that takes you for a ride that you never want to step off, a high you don't want to come down from.
Let me reveal a bias before I get into my review of this book: I do not like books about cheating relationships. Seriously, I just don't, they just aren't my cuppa. Probably for more reasons than I could name in the length of this review - whether it may be my personal moral code, the relationships I've observed from other people, among others. It's a difficult subject to write about, I realize, because you have an idea that it's not going to end well. Someone is bound to get hurt, possibly multiple people. People within the relationship itself (whether the cheated party or the cheating party) as well as beyond it.
In fiction where cheating relationships are highlighted, there's almost always some trainwreck or emotional curveballs that stories may throw every which way but loose. There's almost always some pandering to one side to make it seem like the relationship should work or that the chosen pairing is somehow desirable to play it up.
That's not what Megan Hart's "Tear You Apart" does, though.
This novel takes the messiness that is one cheating relationship and shows it in a slow burn (probably slower than some people may like, which is why I hesitate on it because this is either going to be a novel that clicks with you, or it doesn't - in terms of pacing). It's an emotional rollercoaster, starting the slow climb, going up, up, up to where you reach the high, and then the rapid descent downward goes faster than you can keep up with, with no time to brace yourself.
Meet Elizabeth - art critic and assistant. She's not the most likable personality, which is a bit of an understatement for me because she's my second least favorite protagonist from all the Hart novels I've perused thus far. But I followed her emotional journey through this book very well, regardless. She meets the charismatic Will at an exhibit and the two start a rather steadily built relationship on the side while Elizabeth's husband, Ross, is away on constant business trips, and her twin daughters are grown and in relationships of their own.
The novel takes you through the sensuous highs of their relationship, and given that Elizabeth has synesthesia, her eye to details was unique to me because she notes an extra bit of detail with respect to sound, taste, and color. This straddled a line between beautiful sensory detail and purple prose - I'll admit in places the description did bog parts of the narrative down, at least in the first part, as did some frequency of the sensual interludes between each other. But I still appreciated reading and learning a bit about Elizabeth's life and relationship details. Were they as engrossing as some of her other works? Not as much, but I did like reading - for example, Elizabeth's relationship and history with Naveen.
It think the point where I really got into this was a bit beyond the 50% mark, when the relationship is in full thrumming, and you start seeing the strain and doubt in the relationship for what it leads to. Between Elizabeth's own internal musings of what would become of her relationship with Will is thrown into doubt, she starts feeling the ache of the stolen moments they have with each other, and some interesting tension points are given with respect to Ross's perception of things.
When I started seeing more of the cracks in Ross and Elizabeth's relationship, that also proved interesting to me because I felt that I saw the points where Elizabeth had truly fallen out of love with him. (The scene where she fixes the sink and he confronts her was rather telling of this.) At the same time, I saw the wear and tear in her relationship with Will. Is he going to be with her? Is he not? What are his obligations? What are her obligations and in these stolen moments, what are they gaining and losing? It's a morality toggle, and it felt realistic without feeling gimmicky. The problem that I foresee with some people picking up this book is that it doesn't completely delve into contrast of emotions that occur with the discovery of a cheating relationship.
Rather, it deals with Elizabeth's own decision to try to break things off only to realize, in several notations, that she can't. It's a drug, it's a physical ache, it's insatiable (and suddenly the Darren Hayes song of the same name pops into my brain). I understood it, I just couldn't completely connect with it. Which is why I didn't feel as much coming out of this novel compared to Hart's other novels. The ending is appropriate to the events that are shown, but I have a feeling this is one that will be hit or miss, alongside the consideration that people may or may not like the characters in this and what they do, or connect with how they feel.
I think "Tear You Apart" has a symbolic quality that matches with its title, because it's not only speaking for the nature of the relationship contained between two people in this novel, but it's also talking about the "tearing apart" from within, and progression towards honesty and truth in establishing your relationships, whether they may be built or broken or somewhere in the far expanse between.
I thought it was decent, but I wish it could've amounted to even more than what it was.
Overall score: 2.5/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Harlequin MIRA.