This book is about two high school sweethearts who are separated at 17 by circumstances beyond their control. Each thinks the other has abandoned them. Axel spends years in the military while Isabelle ends up in an abusive marriage. Leaving aside prologues, the book effectively starts two years after Isabelle has left her marriage, and shortly after Axel has left the military. Axel is hired to protect Isabelle from her ex-husband who is being the kind of wanker that abusive ex-husbands can be.
There is definitely an element of the ‘if only they talked’ trope, which is always a bit frustrating. The misunderstanding whereby they both think the other abandoned them would be easily cleared up if they just said something to each other. It’s made worse by the fact that secondary characters are clearly aware of the misunderstanding but don’t make any attempt to clear it up other than suggesting they sit down and talk which Isabelle doesn’t want to do.
But there was one thing that really bugged me. Isabelle has just left an abusive marriage, where the husband controlled her (isolating her from her friends, scheduling her day, punishments if things weren’t done as he expected) and she clearly has PTSD. Plus (as if that wasn’t bad enough), he is still stalking and attacking her when he can. With that in mind, how the fuck can she fall for a guy like Axel? He is controlling and overbearing.
Hear me now, and understand me. We will talk, but nothing you say will change the fact that you and I are happening. I won’t let you go, Izzy. Never. You’re mine, you got that, Princess?”
We were back to ‘us’ for three weeks when he told me I was moving in. There wasn’t any room for arguments
She cocks her head to the side and shrieks loudly when he jumps forward and throws her over his shoulder. Before anyone can blink, they are out the door.
“What the hell just happened?” I ask.
“Oh my God!” Emmy gasps.
Maddox is silent, but Greg barks out a loud laugh.
“Princess, that’s what happens when shit festers and bitches act like bitches.”
Coop comes through the door with the stupid fucking cake I have been screaming at the bakery over for the last two days. Idiots.
“Not until your last name matches mine and Nate’s.” His voice is firm, and I know he’s losing his patience.
“I don’t need to have your last name to prove anything. Especially not that my heart is yours.”
“But you will,” he stresses with all playfulness gone from his tone.
As far as I’m concerned, those quotes sound like the abusive ex-husband. But they’re not, that’s Axel. He gives her no choice about being with him, no choice about marrying him and taking his name, he treats people with impatience and disrespect, he refers to women as ‘bitches’ and he even, at one point, takes her to his house despite her protests (which I’m pretty sure is called kidnapping). She wanted to talk to him in a public place, but of course, he knew what was best and disregarded her wishes. Her friends don’t seem bothered by this beyond the first time he sends her in a PTSD meltdown with his overbearing manner. Isabelle doesn’t seem bothered by this beyond the first PTSD meltdown. How can this be? The fact that he doesn’t physically hurt her and that she loves him is all the difference between Axel and the abusive ex-husband! Instead of saying that she will be with him forever more regardless of her opinion on the matter, he should be asking her to stay with him, even begging her not to leave him. Not ordering her around. He should respect her wishes to talk to him in a public place instead of kidnapping her to his isolated home where she is completely at his mercy. He should respect her wishes to retain her own surname if that’s what she chooses. I could go on for ages.
I found this book very disturbing, and I’m kind of concerned that the author thinks that it’s okay for men to treat women like this, removing their choices and demanding obedience. Physical violence is not the only kind of abuse, and just because you love someone and they love you, doesn’t make it okay for them to treat you like that.