Review Deux: Hurts to Love You by Alisha Rai

Hurts to Love You (Forbidden Hearts #3) by Alisha Rai
Contemporary romance released by Avon on March 27, 2018

Well-behaved women don’t lust after men who love to misbehave.
Heiress Evangeline Chandler knows how to keep a secret . . . like her life-long crush on the tattooed hottie who just happens to be her big brother’s friend. She’s a Chandler, after all, and Chandlers don’t hook up with the help. Then again, they also don’t disobey their fathers and quit their respectable jobs, so good-girl rules may no longer apply.

Gabriel Hunter hides the pain of his past behind a smile, but he can’t hide his sudden attraction to his friend’s sheltered little sister. Eve is far too sweet to accept anything less than forever and there’s no chance of a future between the son of a housekeeper and the town’s resident princess.

When a wedding party forces Eve and Gabe into tight quarters, keeping their hands off each other will be as hard as keeping their clothes on. The need that draws them together is stronger than the forces that should shove them apart . . . but their sparks may not survive the explosion when long-buried secrets are finally unearthed.

As the blurb says, this book is about Eve Chandler and Gabe Hunter—who is Livvy’s boss. I really enjoyed this book. Eve was likeable and multifaceted—she has issues resulting from her childhood, but she’s working through them, even before she starts having sex with Gabe. Gabe also has issues, which he is not working on. They both have pants feelings for each other, and they have both bought into this idea that having a relationship would be bad. As I’ve gotten older, this she’s-untouchable-because-she’s-my-best-friend’s-sister trope has also gotten old. But Rai made it work. Technically, it isn’t so much that Eve is Gabe’s friend’s younger sister—it’s that she is several years younger than Gabe, and he has a complicated relationship with her family. It was wonderful coming along for the ride with this couple, even though it’s the last book in this series. There are discussions of psychological abuse in this book, as well as anxiety and other mental health issues. There are great revelations in this book, and all the family drama is lanced—popped?—so if you really wanted to know all the truth, this is the pot of gold you were hoping for.

Eve is the youngest, and she was psychologically abused by her father, as well as neglected. Naturally, she’s developed some coping mechanisms, one of which is to be incredibly wary of exposing her emotions. She also is trying to figure out who she is—she’s not interested in the family business, or the family’s nonprofit efforts, but she desperately wants her older brother’s emotional support. What I liked about Eve was that while she did talk about going to therapy and incorporating what she learned from her sessions into her daily life, she also learned from women like Livvy. Livvy didn’t purposefully set out to mentor Eve in how to be braver, but Eve nevertheless learned from her. I also enjoyed this one tiny interaction between Eve and Jackson.
She stopped next to Jackson, who was standing in a corner, scanning the crowd as if he were mentally calculating how quickly he could get out of there and back to his room. Which probably wasn’t far from the truth.

He gave her a nod. “How are you holding up?” she asked.

“I’m surviving. I hate people. You?”

“I’m surviving. People are tolerable.”

They grinned at each other.

It made my introvert’s heart happy.

And yes, Eve does learn how to leave her shell. What she also learns is that she made her shell for a reason, and sometimes, it’s okay to use it. This is not one of those category romances where the secretary gets transformed into a hot, extroverted new person. There is a beautiful dress that shows up, and Eve does get a little bolder with her makeup, but none of those things make her more or less attractive to Gabe.

Gabe is a talkative person—at all times. He is so talkative, he unnerves Jackson. But he also has secrets, which not even his best friend knew. But he shares those secrets with Eve—and Eve shares her secrets with him. It takes Gabe a little longer to get over his hurdles, but Eve and Gabe manage to overcome their own issues in time to meet each other honestly and get their happy ending. I’m being vague about Gabe’s secrets—and some of Eve’s—because they are spoilers to the overarching plot of this series. Gabe did notice that he was getting too dependent on alcohol early on in the book and was able to catch himself before things got too serious—this was done very subtly, for the most part. Gabe also has a cool sister who is a tech billionaire and refuses to wear traditionally formal clothing. I wish we got to spend more time with her.

Like Sadia and Jackson in Wrong to Need You, Eve and Gabe are not perfect or one-dimensional. Yes, Eve has issues, but they aren’t all of who she is, and Gabe’s issues are not all of what he is.

I would have liked more time with Gabe’s cool sister, but I got cute puppies, wonderful characters, and a great ending to a series, so I guess you can’t have everything. One more quick thing: I have never enjoyed spending so much time with such complicated families. Go read this book—it can be read on its own, but it will make much more sense if you read it after reading the other two books in order. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Rai’s work.

Grade: A-

You can buy a copy here.

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