Sunday, August 14, 2016

REVIEW: This Love by Hilaria Alexander

Shel: I'm ever so slowly working through my TBR list (it's so long, it's overwhelming to be quite honest) and when I had an opportunity to read This Love by Hilaria Alexander (in preparation for her upcoming release Not About Love), I took it. Court: Agree! We had enjoyed her before, so we were certain that the chances were high that we would again! And we did.

Shel: I went into this novel with very little prior knowledge and found myself completely sucked into Ella and Lou's romance. As you can see from the synopsis (below) Ella left the States and all the pressure and baggage that came with her classical music education and her overbearing parents and while in her new 'home' she meets a well known musician, Lou, and they fall in love--but it's not that easy. This is an oversimplification on my part, but I think it's because to really explain it all I'd have to write a novel length post and, really, you should read the novel and experience the magic all for yourself. So instead of going on at length about the plot, I'd rather share all the things that added up to a great read for me: Court: Yes, all of the elements as they unfolded were a fun new look at diverse characters. Both of our MC's were American, but the rest of the supporters were not so they really added a rich element to Ella's stay in Amsterdam. They were really in a bit of  a bubble of culture, and fun and being in a world where their future was bright and their past was literally a world away. It would be nice to do that sometime, I, lets ship off to Europe for an adventure yes? 

Shel: WARNING!!!!! I'm doing an unusual thing and be SPOILER-ish so if you don't want to be spoiled, scroll to the bottom bullet points.

Shel: ~Ella was such an interesting mix of hard and soft. She has no filter; she has an edgy smart mouth, she's defensive, she says things without thinking sometimes, and in so many aspects she is fearless. She's also incredibly sensitive and loving and loyal. But there are two completely unrelated things I liked about her: 1) she completely owned her sexuality and I LOVE YOU HILARIA for making her that way and 2) she made the hard decision to walk away from Lou to do something good for herself. 

***Let me reiterate: in the middle of this novel, the writer did something I think was unusual by giving us the high angsty moment (rather than putting it in the last 20%) and then she showed us the fall out of Ella's decision to walk away from Lou-- and his decision to accept it. Maybe it was a risk for it to be written this way, but it totally worked for me. I had so many conflicting feelings about this decision, which naturally kept me reading. On the one hand, I was so proud of Ella for doing something good for herself. On the other hand, I felt so bad for Lou and so frustrated with her stubbornness. And then I'd think about why she was pursuing her goals and I'd find myself cheering her on again and hoping like hell Lou could understand and they'd work out.***

Court: AGGHH I know. The answers were so easy. But I really liked that she took the time for herself. She didn't compromise her journey for anyone AND THAT MADE THIS NOVEL SO GOOD.  She had lived a life the other way, and was not prepared to continue with her decisions made for her. I loved that about her. I need a little of that part of her in me, and I think a lot of people will connect with that. 

Shel: ~Lou. We get two, I think?, chapters from his POV and while I appreciated knowing what was going on in his head, I didn't need them to like him. He was charming and calm and generally supportive and had the patience of Job...except for when he fucked up and gave Ella an ultimatum. WHY DID YOU DO THAT LOU? WHY?! Court: No kidding. I get why, but I didn't want him to do that. 

Shel: ~The raw emotion. Seeing them both working through their hearts aching, their longing, and the struggle to adapt to a life without each other felt so honest. Never did I feel that what they felt would never happen or was unrealistic--as a matter of fact, I know I've done/said/felt many of the things they both expressed. I also loved their passion for each other and their laughter and their shared look and their kisses. And Hilaria Alexander, you can write some hot af kisses. Gah. Those kisses were memorable. Court: I had a love/hate relationship with how time passed, but these parts were necessary again even if I didn't like it. It really put a perspective on their journey. There was not instalove. Definitely insta-like, but each of their baggage played a huge part in their frequent difficulties. 

Shel: ~The ending. When Lou and Ella see each other again I swear I could see it playing out like a movie in my head and I was verklempt. Their reunion was sweet and really just lovely. Court: I couldn't agree more! 

~ Amsterdam. Many moons ago, my husband and I visited Amsterdam for a weekend and I fell in love with it. I loved the way it had this understated sophistication and yet a small town feel about it all at the same time--it was beautiful and the people were so kind to us, and the history and youthfulness just invigorated us. Being immersed in that location and headspace while reading this book just gave it that added extra *thing* for me. And then, we go to Florence and let's just say that the next time I have extra money and time, I want to go. Court: OH, that is a great story Shel, and I too would love to go and see all of the beautiful things that were described in this story. And then I read that Hilaria is from Italy, so I feel that she definitely had the experiences to back up the things she said about these settings - and I love settings that take over the tone of the book. The setting is important! Love! 

Shel: To sum up: I would highly recommend this novel. Why?

  • It was quietly angsty --not sure if that makes sense but it does in my mind?
  • Emotionally honest
  • Romantic
  • The kisses were hot
  • The characters were great together and apart
  • Amsterdam and Florence--need I say more?
  • The secondary characters rounded out the novel and I'd love to see them all again
  • Musicians who aren't rockers and are more low key? YES.
Court: I do. Hilaria's writing style with this one is a little bit different than I'm used to, but we are so IN Ella's head pretty much the whole time, and I feel like we have to get used to the way she speaks to us. She's emotional and a bit dramatic, but like Shel said so loyal to a fault, and loving. She is a great heroine, and I loved reading her journey of self discovery and the musical influence that it had along the way. 

Needless to say, I'll be jumping into the second novel in this series of stand-alones TODAY!

Want to know more? Read below:


Music brought them together,
But it just might tear them apart.

Leaving New York.
It was the best decision I ever made.
Packing up and moving to the other side of the world changed me.
I turned a new page, leaving the past behind.

Amsterdam felt like home--for a while.
But I was still stuck.
Unable to move forward.

Then, Lou Rivers showed up,
Instantly, I felt my life shift again.
A constant reminder of the life I once had,
The mistakes I left behind.
He's the musician I dreamed of being...
If I were stronger, bolder, braver.
But I wasn’t.

He taught me how to love music again,
And for the first time, I feel like I know what to do.
But how can I?
How can I become myself without giving up on us?

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