Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Chloe Liese - Ever After Always

I’ve spent twelve years loving Freya Bergman and twelve lifetimes won’t be enough to give her everything she deserves. She’s my passionate, tender-hearted wife, my best friend, and all I want is to make her happy. But the one thing that will make her happiest is the one thing I’m not sure I can give her: a baby.
With the pressure of providing and planning for a family, my anxiety’s at an all-time high, and I find myself pulling away, terrified to tell my wife how I’m struggling. But when Freya kicks me out, I realize that pulling back has turned into pushing too far. Now it’s the fight of a lifetime to save our marriage.
I love my cautious, hard-working husband. He’s my partner and best friend, the person I know I can count on most. Until one day I realize the man I married is nowhere to be found. Now Aiden is quiet and withdrawn, and as the months wear on, the pain of our growing distance becomes too much.
As if weathering marriage counseling wasn’t enough, we’re thrown together for an island getaway to celebrate my parents’ many years of perfect marriage while ours is on the brink of collapse. Despite my meddling siblings and a week in each other’s constant company, this trip somehow gets us working through the trouble in paradise. I just can’t help worrying, when we leave paradise and return to the real world, will trouble find us again?

Comment: This is the third installment in the Bergman Brothers series which, interestingly, is actually about the older sister, Freya.

In this third novel, we follow the marriage troubles between Freya and Aiden. We've met Aiden in book #1 as a very conniving teacher who give a little "help" to unite the protagonists. However, in this book we get to see the most vulnerable side of him and how he and Freya deal with the issues pushing them apart. Aiden feels his anxiety takes over him at times and Freya wonders if love and companionship can be enough when there are other things to worry about. When her brother Ren offers the family a vacation on Hawaii, could it be that an idyllic spot will make a difference?

Since I liked the previous two books, I can say that I also liked this one, in general. But, thinking of the three, so far, that I have read, I must say this was the one I liked the least and I already foresaw that. Of course, I'd have preferred to be positively surprised but to be honest, marriage in trouble isn't usually a trope I find interesting. Often it means flashbacks or discussing too much of a realistic and depressing subject and while I can applaud the idea of writing about realistic issues, in a romance I admit my preference for emotional stories not as bleak (or that don't feel as such).

Freya and Aiden seem to have a great marriage and one can see evidence of it in small things. But, as with every couple, things aren't always easy or smooth, after all everyone has issues, everyone is an individual even if part of a partnership/marriage. While they love each other, they both have worries, personal issues they don't always share and when lack of communication comes in, those issues might take bigger proportions and that is what I think was being portrayed here.

Aiden has anxiety caused by his poor childhood, seeing his mother trying so hard to provide for him, since his father was not present. In part, that was made him have the reactions and thoughts he still presents as an adult. I think this subject was well done, it was quite realistic and the author clearly wanted to write something that could allow readers to identify with what was being discussed. I actually liked reading about Aiden's issues and how he managed to cope and deal, even if it wasn't as easy as one might expect from a romance novel. It's probably because of this that the books feel extra special, the author obviously cares about portraying things properly.

Freya also has her worries and problems and while I could empathize, somehow her side of things didn't feel as easy to explain. I understand we all have triggers, we all have a way of doing things and expectations, but somehow here, this aspect didn't seem to be as well presented. Perhaps it was more to do with my own perception of things and not the author's fault. The thing is, along with the other elements, this made for a slightly bleak reading at times. Even when secondary characters did silly things or when they were doing family stuff, I kept thinking, when will the next sad/problematic issue going to happen? It made me feel anxious too and I suppose I wasn't enjoying the read as much.

The story ends well, Freya and Aiden try to solve their issues, there are some romantic scenes allowing to be convinced their will be able to keep working on their partnership but to be really honest, this type of story (marriage in trouble) isn't one I tend to enjoy. There are some exceptions, but I don't think this will be one of them. I liked the ideas, I liked the characters as individuals and the secondary cast but what I'm really looking for to read is the next novel in the series...
Grade: 7/10

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