Book Review – It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Genre: Fiction; Romance

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ / 5

Verity by Colleen Hoover is one of the best thrillers I’ve read in a while, so going into one of CoHo’s romance novels – I was a bit nervous.

I have complicated feelings about this novel, much like I did with Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom (review here). So while there are 5 stars up there, take the time to read through this one because it’s not as simple as me loving it or enjoying it. 

It Ends With Us follows Lily, jumping from past to present, as she explores love, pain, and abuse throughout her life. She’s worked hard to escape her hometown and build a life and business of her own. When her father dies, she’s pulled back to memories of him and her first love – Atlas Corrigan. 

Queue Ryle Kincaid, a gorgeous neurosurgeon, who shows Lily what life could be like in the perfect marriage, perfect relationship, and perfect life. But then memories of her childhood begin to repeat themself in her current relationship and it all begins to crack. 

She finds herself leaning on her longtime flame, Atlas, and confused by it all.

“Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s the love. If there was no love attached to the action, the pain would be a little easier to bear.”

Colleen Hoover, It Ends with Us

When I talked my husband through the synopsis of this book (with a few more details/spoilers) his response was “hits a little too close to home, don’t you think”? 

Occasionally I get really personal on here, and this is going to be one of those times.

While I myself have never been in a physically abusive relationship, my father was abusive. My earliest childhood memories are filled in fear and intimidation and stories of the horrific things my mom had to experience and I sometimes witnessed.

So for me this novel showed me what my life could have been like if my mom didn’t leave my father or if I didn’t have the self-awareness and strength to ensure I broke the cycle of abuse. I felt like I was reading an alternate reality version of my life. It was upsetting and hard and I cried. But I don’t regret reading it. 

While I don’t think it’s healthy to constantly expose ourselves to the things that trigger our emotional or psychological trauma – for me, I do find it therapeutic to sometimes allow myself to submerge in those feelings. I take the time to think and process, and while I feel wrung out at the end, I feel better. 

I understand that doesn’t work for everyone.

So that’s what this novel was for me. It was a beautiful and terrible story that explores love and abuse and how hard it can be to break that cycle when it’s all you’ve ever known. I hope you take the time to read it. This is a different take on your standard romance novel, and I feel like it’s an important one. 

We read all of these fluffy rom-coms (or sexy dark romances) and live in these fantasies – it’s good to have a check sometimes and have a story that explores how complicated love can be – with yourself, your partner, your parents, your kids. 

“You can stop swimming now, Lily. We finally reached the shore.”

Colleen Hoover, It Ends with Us

Book Review – The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Genre: Fiction; Romance

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 / 5

Hypothesis: Adam Carlsen might be my new favorite book boyfriend.

If you’re anything like me then you regularly find yourself scrolling through Netflix looking for the most predictable, lovable rom-com available and devour it without a complaint. They make you happy and bring joy into your life even if you know exactly how it’s going to play out.

That’s the feeling I got when reading The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood. Every guess and prediction I made throughout the book came true, but that didn’t stop me from reading this in one sitting – unable to put it down for even a second.

The main character, Olive Smith, is a third-year PhD candidate and jaded when it comes to romance, but her best friend has eyes on a man Olive already dated. So she does the only logical thing she can to convince her BFF it’s okay – she gets a fake boyfriend, who also happens to be a notorious asshole.

Our love interest, Adam Carlsen, is a hotshot on campus that has made more than a few students cry and give up their graduation dreams, but he seems to have a soft spot for Olive. 

Queue the transition from fake boyfriend to real boyfriend, and honestly one of my favorite sex scenes I’ve read in a book. 

One of my favorite elements of the novel is that each chapter starts with a hypothesis from Olive. It’s a cute way to set the scene for the upcoming part of the story and gives some insight into how Olive thinks and approaches a situation.

But what really hits home is Olive’s struggles with confidence in a male dominated field of work. She’s busting her ass and dealing with assholes who may not think she has what it takes. Eventually she realizes her potential and stands up for herself. Honestly, I was more excited about that part than the romance. I love a badass, powerful woman who takes zero bullshit.

“Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man.”

-Ali Hazelwood, The Love Hypothesis

If you love a fake boyfriend trope, Alpha male protects his girl, sappy romance – this is the book for you. I have already bookmarked Ali Hazelwood’s next novel Love on the Brain and her STEMinist novellas all coming out this year. 

With just this one book Ali Hazelwood jumped to the top of my list for romance writers. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Book Review – The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

Genre: Romance; Fiction

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

I read this book, thought about it, wrote and rewrote this review, and have come to the same conclusion over and over. The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang is not a romance novel focused on our main character Anna Sun and her relationship with Quan. This is a romance novel focused on our main character Anna Sun’s journey to self awareness and ultimately self love. All other plot lines are just side quests. 

After having a video of her playing the violin go viral on YouTube, Anna Sun hasn’t been able to step out of the pressures of international stardom and play through a full song on the violin. Although she practices every day, she’s so focused on perfection it’s impossible to make it to the end of a piece written just for her. 

Queue her dickhead boyfriend, who thinks this is the perfect time to have the “we should see other people before settling down together” talk, and from the start of the book our sweet Anna is in for one hell of a ride. 

The author uses Anna’s long time boyfriend to show a difficult side of romance, especially for women. Our protagonist talks about suffering through orgasm-less sex, but it’s clear she’s never had the self confidence to vocalize what it is she needs in bed. I think all women (and men) can relate. We all have a point in our life where we not only have no idea what it is we need or want, but don’t even remotely have the ability to speak up and tell our partner. 

For me, this is one of the more relatable aspects of this novel. Helen Hoang doesn’t paint some impossible picture of perfect sex with perfectly timed orgasms from the start. She shows the struggles we sometimes face to achieve the perfect climax with our partners and how difficult it can sometimes be. 

After her boyfriend cuts ties, Anna makes a bold, out-of-character move and decides if her boyfriend is going to see other people then she will too. That is when Quan steps into the story. He has tattoos (we love it), and he rides a motorcycle (we love it even more). He’s nothing like her boyfriend. 

Anna and Quan quickly fall for each other, and the romance – while rocky at the beginning – shifts into something gorgeous and serious. 

But the most brilliant and romantic aspect of this novel isn’t the romance between Anna and Quan – it’s watching Anna really start to understand herself and love herself enough to begin to take care of herself. Throughout this story we watch as Anna shifts from a quiet woman who allows her family to dictate her life into a woman who boldly sticks up for herself and speaks up for what she wants. 

This is where we see that boldness Anna develops in her sex life bleed over into her other relationships, especially with her family. Her entire life she’s remained quiet and done what is expected, regardless of how it makes her feel. This completely changes as Anna interacts with her family throughout the novel, and it’s one of the most “YASSS GIRL” moments. I saw her boldly stand up for herself and wanted to experience that empowerment in my own life. 

Overall, The Heart Principle is messy. There’s romance, grief, family conflict, and burnout. One moment we are experiencing a steamy scene between Anna and Quan then the next we are enraged by Anna’s family constantly gaslighting her.

But while I use the word messy, I don’t want to diminish the beauty of this story (both in the plot of the story and in Helen Hoang’s writing).

I don’t read much romance, but this one definitely set the bar high for all future romance novels I pick up. 

If you haven’t already read one of Helen Hoang’s novels, I highly recommend you take a stroll through the romance section the next time you’re at the bookstore. Her writing is full of emotion and love. I know I will be heading her way next time I’m at the bookstore to pick up more of her novels.