All the Lies We Tell
Megan Hart is an autobuy author for me. And even though this particular book didn’t entirely work for me, she’s still going to be an autobuy author because it contains much of what makes her work unique. Technically, she’s a solid and often vivid writer, she creates unique characters and she puts them in situations that really make them dig deep into their emotions. Hart also takes risks, whether it’s jumping back and forth across subgenres or putting characters in situations uncomfortable enough to make readers squirm. Some of what she does in All the Lies We Tell didn’t work for me, but I did find myself thinking about her characters even after I’d finished reading.
This novel is first in a duo, and collectively, the books deal with a group of people who grew up in the two houses that once sat isolated on a stretch of Quarry Street. In this first book, we learn that Alicia Harrison married her neighbor, Ilya Stern. Things didn’t work out between them and they divorced, but continue to operate their small business together. One wouldn’t call them content, but they did at least settle in and stagnate a bit for several years.
Their isolated little world gets shaken up as Ilya’s Russian grandmother nears the end of her life. She was a central figure in the lives of those on Quarry Street and with her final illness, an entire cast of characters descends upon the small town. Ilya’s unstable mother, his one-time stepsister and even his brother Nicolai (Niko) all come back to town. And that’s when things start to get interesting.
It’s obvious from the beginning that neither Ilya nor Alicia is entirely happy. However, the means of changing their situation feels out of their grasp. It isn’t until figures from their past come knocking that readers start to get revelations about why Alicia and Ilya married, what made them start their business, and some of the secrets being kept. In some ways, the revelations give the book a melancholy tone because, particularly with Alicia, one gets the sense of the possibilities for what her life might have been had events not intervened.
Without giving too much away, suffice it to say that the cast of characters in this book have had their worlds upended more than once. There is something of a lingering mystery as well, though it appears that readers will need to read the sequel (All the Secrets We Keep) to find the solution to it.
In addition to melancholy and mystery, readers get romance as well. One figures out rather quickly that Alicia married the wrong Stern brother. She and Nika have explosive chemistry and much of the book centers on them reconnecting and figuring out what kind of relationship they want to have with one another. Their love scenes are hot and packed with emotion. As is often the case with this author, one can see quite an arc in how her characters communicate with one another – and this often involves their sexual communication every bit as much as their words.
At times All the Lies We Tell felt like frustrating navel-gazing punctuated by hot sex. However, at the best moments, readers get a glimpse into characters dealing with raw emotion and being forced to examine their lives. I did enjoy it, but by making it part of a duology, the author lost me just a little bit as I felt rather incomplete upon reaching the last page.