Come to Me Softly
Do you enjoy watching people self-destruct while everyone around them tries to prevent it from happening? How about a hero who despises himself so much that he has an awful tattoo of the most gruesome moment from his past spread across his chest just to remind himself how terrible he is? And in case you forget, he’s there to remind you every single page. No? This book may not be for you then.
Jared Holt and Aleena Moore, known as Aly, grew up together, neighbors whose moms were best friends. Jared crushed on Aly for quite a while, but always felt she was off limits due to his friendship with her older brother. His feelings toward her reach a crescendo one summer and they hook up, night after night in the apartment Aly shares with her brother.
When this book begins, Jared has fled town, terrified of his relationship and feelings for Aly. Pregnant with his child, Aly has tried to go about life without him and looks forward to the birth of their child. Jared is unable to stay away from her though and returns to face the censure of her family. Now that he is back, they must contend with not only her father’s staunch disapproval, but the past that has festered in Jared’s mind and soul.
I mentally subtitled this “The Book in Which Nothing Happens.” There is virtually no action, just page after page of Jared loathing himself and exalting Aly to sainthood. He hates himself so much for his past that I was beginning to believe that he was a serial killer, the Unabomber, and an Al-Qaeda member all rolled into one package. This guy takes the concept of “tortured hero” and levels up. He’s such a troubled young man who needs more than the love of a good woman to save him. He needs extensive professional counseling. I need counseling after 400 or so pages of his self-pity.
Our heroine is unobjectionable but also dull. She’s supportive of Jared and wants to help him work through his internal problems. She’s so calm in the face of his turmoil though that I wanted her to lose her temper and break something, preferably over his fool head. Plus I had to agree with her brother when he asks Jared, after Jared has beat the sense out of him, how long it will be before he gets angry enough at Aly that he hurts her or the baby. That much rage does not go away easily and I really wanted Aly to recognize that, stop being a weeping doormat, and give him an ultimatum to attend counseling.
The few conflicts that arose were resolved fairly quickly. Then it was back to the loathing and self-flagellation. There is some jealousy-induced melodrama that plays out, but it’s mild for the most part. The overall effect is basically an extended look at the daily lives of two people who bored me to tears.
The writing is uneven, sometimes displaying a sense of melancholy and heartache well, but frequently offering some questionable word choices or clichéd attributes. For instance, Aly tells us early on, “I just wanted to stay there. In the safety of his arms. Forever.” At one point she describes Jared as “covered in a horror of tattoos, those same horrors reflected in the sea of pain that raged in his ice-blue eyes.” Those type of over the top pronouncements carry through the entire book.
This is the continuation of what appears to be a popular series. It isn’t unreadable. At times the writing even shows promise. And the concept is fine, but page after page after page left me exhausted and in a bad temper. Jared’s pity party combined with Aly the Paragon of Virtue’s pleas for him to get help got on my very last nerve. This is one of those cases in which I was thankful to see the last page of the epilogue.