from The New York Times in October 2022:
Colleen Hoover has sold more books this year than Dr. Seuss. She’s sold more books than James Patterson and John Grisham — combined.
To say she’s currently the best-selling novelist in the United States, to even compare her to other successful authors who have landed several books on the best seller lists, fails to capture the size and loyalty of her audience.
She holds six of the top 10 spots on The New York Times’s paperback fiction best-seller list, a stunning number of simultaneous best sellers from a single author. She has sold 8.6 million print books this year alone — more copies than the Bible, according to NPD BookScan.
We at AAR have never reviewed Colleen Hoover. So, when Verity was a Steal and Deal a few weeks ago, I snapped it up.
The book begins with an act of violence. Our narrator (she is one of two–the other, the eponymous Verity), Lowen Ashleigh tells us in the book’s very first line: “I hear the crack of his skull before the spattering of blood reaches me.” I gasped, for the first and last time. Lowen, on her way to a meeting with her publisher, has just watched a man step into the street–he was, of course, on his phone–and get smashed to bits by a truck.
This, for Lowen, is a bummer.
Not because she cares especially about the stranger’s death but because the white shirt she donned for her meeting is now a red and white shirt and that, she thinks, will not impress the editor she is on her way to meet. Lowen, a self-described introvert, is about to be evicted from her apartment. She’s broke, unemployed, and down to the last pennies of her last advance from her last poorly selling book. This meeting, whose terms are a mystery to her (her agent and ex-boyfriend set it up), is crucial to her financial survival.
Fortunately, a man, tall and kind, takes her to a nearby coffee shop where she strips off her shirt–as he watches–and, once she’s cleaned herself up, gives her his own. His name, he tells her, is Jeremy and he and Lowen have a moment. But he has a wedding ring on his left hand and Lowen, worried about being late for her meeting, watches him walk away.
She, however, runs into him almost immediately in the publisher’s lobby.
Not Shockingly, Jeremy is also at this meeting.
Jeremy is married to wildly successful Verity Crawford, an author of riveting and unsettling murder mysteries. Verity has been in an car accident and, though her condition isn’t explained, the publisher explains that they’d like to hire Lowen to write the last three books in Verity’s best-selling series The Novel Virtues. Despite being about to be evicted, Lowen says she can’t–the publicity piece of it just won’t suit. But, after dismissing everyone else from the room, Jeremy talks her into it with a promise of anonymity and a boatload of money. Plus, he’s offering housing which means that not only will Lowen have a place to live until her first check comes in, she’ll be able to spend time immersed in
sex fantasies about Jeremy Verity’s life.
Thus, in just about the time it would take you to read a synopsis of Rebecca, t
he second Mrs. De Winter Lowen arrives at the Crawfords’ rural mansion in Vermont where she’s to spend a few days going through Verity’s files and getting a sense of her work. (Lowen has never read her, something she rectifies by listening to an audiobook of the first book on the drive which takes six hours. Lowen finishes the book–I guess Verity writes very short books–and deems it really good.) At the house, she finds Jeremy and his five year old son (Jeremy’s twin daughters both died last year), Crew, the Crawford’s five year old son, and Verity. The latter is, Jeremey tells Lowen as he takes her to meet his wife who is lying, empty eyed in bed, essentially brain dead. Jeffrey and two nurses take care of her and, thinks Lowen, “It’s all so depressing. This house, the tragedies in this family’s past, the struggles in their present.”
But this book is a thriller not a cautionary tale about the dangers of not wearing seatbelts. Thus, after meeting Verity, Jeremy takes Lowen to Verity’s gorgeous office where, once left on her own, Lowen discovers A MANUSCRIPT. This book, entitled So Be It, isn’t part of Verity’s series. Nope. It’s an autobiography and once Lowen starts reading it, she is hooked.
Verity, you see, is EVIL. On the first page of her account of her life with Jeremy–that is the sole focus of So Be It–she tells the reader that her words will not just be distasteful, they will become part of the reader’s gut and they will be hurt because of them. This, of course, does not deter Lowen who, over the next two weeks–she ends up staying longer than she’d planned because of reasons–reads Verity’s words obsessively.
I couldn’t tell you why either Lowen or Verity have had success with their books. The chapters in Lowen’s voice are prosaic, rife with mundane details, and reflect a woman whose curiosity is anxious and credulous. Those in Verity’s are full of lurid sex scenes that read as if they were written by a 20 year old man with a perpetual hard on and a wish to become the next winner of the Bad Sex in Fiction award. Neither story is tethered to reality. Every main character in the book is both awful and forgettable, even the five year old. And while Hoover does a fine job relentlessly pushing her story into ever more unbelievable twists, I found Verity predictable. Though the book is just 333 pages, it seemed longer, tugged down by its stock prose. It’s not a total waste of time–it is suspenseful in parts and there is a ghoulish pleasure to be found in reading just how spectacularly horrendous Verity’s behavior is.
What, though, you ask about the much praised ending which a Washington Post reviewer called the most chilling twist I’ve ever read in a novel. (Despite that, the reviewer didn’t like the book.) Well, I guess if you’re wowed by an utterly batshit conclusion that, if you think about it for longer than it takes Lowen to ogle shirtless Jeremy, makes no sense, you’ll like this book more than did I.
Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.
|Review Date:||January 27, 2023|
|Book Type:||Psychological Thriller | Romantic Suspense | Women's Fiction|
Your review made me go look up the ending out of total curiosity and
I’m going to read my first Hoover for the site next week and I am truly interested in seeing where she’s going but man…
As I said, utterly batshit.
I cannot believe I actually interpreted all of that mess correctly. Good lord. Hoover sounds very invested in the angst and not invested in the sense.
It’s interesting to me that people love her so much. She telegraphs all her important plot points before they happen with the exception of her nutty final conclusion. Not for me.
A lot of her fans seem young and really into a certain kind of melodrama. It’s why folks latched on to 50sog and Twilight, and then abandoned both culturally as they grew past it.
I like melodrama in the right places (and amounts), but holy cow, this sounds like something out of the soap opera Passions. The only things missing are the living doll and an orangutan nurse.
An orangutan nurse? Really? Wow.
It was an … odd … show. I think someone was also attacked by a tree. :)
Never forget the way it ended. Also the Chicago parody.
Bless Precious, wherever she may go.
Thank you for your review. I haven’t read Verity but I read It Ends With Us and the domestic abuse and violence in the story were heartbreaking. In the author’s note, Hoover shared that events in the book were inspired by things that happened in her and her mother’s lives. I haven’t read more of her books because It Ends With Us With Us was so sad but I admire her for all she has done to raise awareness and money for this cause and many others.
I haven’t read any of her romances although, based on your comment, It Ends with Us doesn’t sound like a romance. Is it?
It won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance in 2016 and Wikipedia lists it as romance. I thought it was a novel about Lily ending the cycle of violence for herself and her child. There were two love stories, a tragic one between her and her husband, Ryle and another between her and Atlas her first love, who had a tragic upbringing. I saw that Blake Lively and Justin Baldoni will star in the movie adaptation of the book.
The second book in the series is Atlas’ story–I’m guessing they end up together?
I don’t know much about It Starts With Us (Oct. 2022) but it’s described in the blurb as Lily and Atlas second chance at love.
There’s been a lot of controversy about whether it counts as WF or contemporary romance, apparently.
They latest controversy I’ve heard is around the movie and how the two lead actors are a lot older than the book characters. Blake Lively is 35 while Lily is 23 in the book and Justin Baldoni is 39 while his character, Ryle is 30.
These people would’ve died if they were around when the original Grease was cast.
I love that cast still!
They make you believe! No one cares that half of them are in their 30s!
Age blind casting or making the characters older?
What I’ve read about her books, both from articles and reviews, makes me think I would not enjoy them. Yes, she’s wildly popular, but her fan base seems to be people who enjoy the “A toxic man can be redeemed by the love a good woman” trope.
Fandom is a weird phenomenon and in its rabid form isn’t a very trustworthy source of unbiased information. Reading a couple of articles, some book synopses and a few well-written 1-3 star reviews of her books gives a nice counterbalance to the some of the more over-the-top adoration.
A six-hour audiobook?! I take it that Colleen Hoover hasn’t listened to many audiobooks.
I thought that too!!! Verity is 333 pages long and the audiobook is just over eight hours.
Maybe she bumped the speed up to1.2X or 1.25X. :-D Seriously, though, that’s actually very common with people who listen to a lot of audiobooks. I find many narrators read too slowly for me, so I generally listen at 1.2X, which speeds up the delivery without any sound distortion. When I get frustrated with an audiobook, I’ve been known to jack the speed up even more, kind of like oral skimming. ;-)
Hard pass! Thanks for taking one for the team.
To be fair, this is her thriller. Her more mainstream romances may be different. But as a thriller, this one didn’t thrill.
Well that sounds ludicrous. And those sales figures are clearly why publishers are falling over themselves to get their stuff on BookTok and are starting to turn their backs on sites like this, which give a book a balanced, well-considered review rather than 2 minutes of fangirly squee.
Hoover, known as CoHo to her fans, was completely under my radar until recently when I read a NYT article on her and her books. I then went to look up some books and read a couple of more articles to get a better picture of her writing. I find if you comb the 1 and 2 star reviews you can find some that are very articulate about the problems with her writing style (several called it “manipulative” instead of complex) and topics. Her fandom is full of younger readers who like the “bad man saved by good woman” trope so popular in many NA books. I don’t care if she’s popular, although the emphasis on toxic men is unfortunate, but she definitely doesn’t interest me.