Hurts to Love You
Heiress Evangeline Chandler is over being a respectable daughter. She’s been driving for a ride service at night, refuses to work for her father’s charitable foundation, and she has a crush on tattoo artist Gabriel Hunter. Eve has been keep her feelings for Gabe a secret for years, but when her brother’s wedding party brings them into close quarters, her secret might come out.
Gabe has a secret of his own. He’s been lusting after the perfect baby Chandler for awhile, even though he knows they aren’t right for each other. He’s willing to torture himself to spend time around her for Nico and Livvy’s wedding, but he isn’t willing to reveal all of the truth about himself, especially when he knows he isn’t the type of guy to give Eve the relationship she deserves.
The previous books in Alisha Rai’s Forbidden Hearts series received high praise, so how does book the third and final book, Hurts to Love You, measure up? AAR staffers Caroline Russomanno and Haley Kral read it and are here to share their thoughts.
What were you hoping for in this book? Did you get it?
HK: The first two books in this series were stand-outs because they both had a flawed, diverse, interesting cast of characters. I liked the amount of angst that came from their circumstances. Livvy and Nico had a Romeo and Juliet type quality and Sadia and Jackson were in-laws. While I thought Evelyn and Gabe were as well developed as their predecessors, their story didn’t have the emotional wallop I was expecting.
CR: I agree. Each book in the series has its own secrets, and to begin with, you can believe them. By the third book with a Big Secret, it starts to feel soapy. Nothing against soaps, but if I wanted to watch soaps, that’s what I’d do. Instead, I read romances, and this level of coincidence and secrecy in my genre feels contrived.
HK: I think you worded that exactly how it was in my mind. This Big Secret doesn’t feel as organic as the others. Although it is of great importance to the character concerned, it didn’t feel as important to me, the reader. I think because, and I’m trying hard not to spoil anything, I thought things would easily be worked out once everyone involved knew the truth.
CR: Absolutely. The defense of that secret was totally unnecessary.
Where does this rank alongside the other books in the Forbidden Hearts series?
HK: This will probably be my least favorite of the three. However, it was still a really good read.
CR: Well, the first book (Hate to Want You) didn’t work for me at all. It drives me crazy when people make each other miserable but can’t stop having sex. I didn’t even finish that one, so obviously that’s my least favorite. While I liked Jackson and Sadia’s plot best, I think Eve and Gabe are tied with them as far as which characters I liked the most. And for all that Livvy and Nico had the most explicit premise, I thought Gabe and Eve had the hottest sex.
HK: I actually loved the first book, although I admit, I’m a big fan of characters who have been pining for each other for ages. I’m okay with them making each other a bit miserable in the process. I thought the first sex scene between Gabe and Eve in this book was very hot, though it took quite a while to get to it. I was really ready for there to be at least a kiss or something. However, I feel like Sadia and Jackson had the sexiest book. What was it that you liked more about Gabe and Eve’s sexy times?
CR: I liked the first sex scene especially, because it was narrated so effectively from Gabe’s point of view. The author does a great job of putting me into his thoughts and showing me how utterly and completely turned on by Eve he is, how he notices and loves every detail of her appearance and actions. Imagining a hero experiencing you that way is pretty intoxicating. Also, he’s an explicit dirty talker, which is always fun (and a nice change from the super-shy, quiet Jackson).
Of course, in order to get to that first scene, we have to wade through an utterly predictable sequence. The second Eve got on a horse, I thought, “Well, there’s going to be unexpected weather, and her horse is going to disappear, and Gabe will come looking, and there’s probably going to be an empty cabin of some sort about.” And lo and behold…
HK: Oh I know! I was thinking as I read that I had seen this scenario in every historical with a horse and a storm.
This book finds Eve being deceitful in order to spend more time around Gabe. Was that a turnoff for you? Or did you think it was acceptable under the circumstances?
CR: I was definitely uncomfortable with it. It would be terrifying if gender-reversed. Men and women aren’t the same, and my standards are different, but stalking his favorite haunts to be sure the car service algorithm picked her is entering bunny boiler territory.
HK: It didn’t bother me so much while I was reading, but I get what you mean. Of course, I may have have gone to some strange lengths to talk to a guy, so I could understand Eve’s choices a little, but I stopped at internet stalking rather than hanging out behind his favorite bar…
That said, since Rai went that direction I thought there would be something more to the Anne/Eve thing. It was a thread that was there throughout the book and then just dropped off.
CR: Yes, it was definitely not adequately resolved.
What was your opinion of Gabe and Eve as characters? Anything you liked or didn’t like?
HK: Eve was a little kooky. I was okay with that for the most part, but it kind of surprised me. I guess she does show up to confront Livvy in a kind of bold way, but from that I expected her to be more brazen than part strange and part shy.
Gabe didn’t feel as fully rounded as Nico or Jackson, at least to me. Nico was kind of the classic, rich, alpha we see in romance all the time. Jackson was adorably shy and awkward. Gabe had his artistic side but the characterization didn’t jump out as strongly to me.
CR: Gabe was somewhat bland, that’s true. I did like Eve’s neurotic-ness – it felt original.
Beyond that, the whole “superlative characters” thing got out of hand. You have a family of supermarket kajillionaires – okay, that’s the setting. But it just stretches credulity that every rich person but Sadia connected to the Chandler’s/ Oka-Kane family is a world-class marvel under forty. Livvy is a destination-quality tattoo artist, and miraculously, so is Gabe. Add in Jackson’s global culinary career, Sadia’s YouTube millionaire sister, and Gabe’s sister, the Silicon Valley billionaire, and my disbelief is no longer willingly suspended.
And Eve of COURSE wants to finance her amazing tech idea to challenge Ryde (read: Uber/Lyft) without any family buy-in, which is just stupid. Plus, her original app idea is… ride sharing? There’s no new feature, just something vague about better people, but everybody acts like she had some brilliant, disruptive plan? Very odd.
This connects back to my complaint about the predictability of the cabin sex scene and your point about the purposelessness of the secret Gabe is keeping: the book’s plot is simply lacking. Gabe is one of those heroes who doesn’t do relationships because he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t do relationships, a circular problem that makes for an unsatisfying source of plot tension. Gabe’s secret will keep them apart, except readers know it won’t.
HK: I think all of that was why this novel was ultimately lacking. Sadia and Jackson seemed more like real people. She was a single mom who needed to work to pay off debt and support her son. Jackson had the restaurateur fame, but in the book he’s helping her out so that is secondary; but Hurts to Love You was all about staying at the super expensive house, butler on call, and throwing in more and more reasons that people were super rich and successful. It stumbled in the realism department.
Final Thoughts. How would you rate this book? Do you have any last opinions you haven’t included already?
HK: I think I’ve said everything I thought about Hurts to Love You. I kind of enjoyed Eve being odd, but I wished the book had been more down to earth and less about secrets and the super wealthy. I would probably rate this a C+ or B- because I really enjoy Rai’s voice and the story was still very sexy.
CR: I’m in the same place as you. Plot was lame, characters were meh, writing was very good, sex scenes were great. I’ll say B- because I would still go back and read it again – or at least parts of it!