How Not to Let Go by by Emily Foster.
I really got into How Not to Fall, despite it having way, way more sex than I enjoy, and no HEA. It’s a successful attempt by the author to write a feminist New Adult romance that’s both emotional and hot, and it also has a wonderful narrator in science-loving Annie.
How Not to Let Go adds Charles’s voice to the narrative, which I found disappointing, since he comes off sounding like every other brooding NA hero. And I think the focus on his life — mainly huge family issues — takes away from Annie’s: she’s mainly a support to him here. Which I guess is fair, since he was mainly a support to her in the first book, but I missed her experiences.
As with the first book, I’m unclear about whether the depiction of BDSM style sex is offensive or empowering. We see Annie get uncomfortable when her best friend is put off by a description of what Charles likes to do to her, but I don’t think that was resolved later. And there are “reasons” for Charles’s unusual desires, which is always potentially iffy. But nothing happens without Annie’s enthusiastic consent.
On the positive side, these were aspects I really liked:
Like the first book, the prose is sometimes challenging with allusions, metaphors, and philosophy. As a reader, I had to do some googling and also make some intuitive leaps.
Although Charles is typically rich (and even titled!), his relationship with Annie has nothing to do with expensive gifts. His gifts to her are of time, attention, and shared experiences. When she needs financial help, she turns to her loving parents.
Also typically, Charles is fucked up to hell and and back. Untypically, he is working very hard to heal.
Although we don’t see enough of Annie’s life, it isn’t denied importance. She’s a student and they both prioritize that.
Most importantly, Charles’s issues aren’t an excuse for him to be a terrible person. Annie continually tells him, “you’re the best man I know,” and she’s not wrong. No matter what his feelings, he battles valiantly to always do the right thing for his family and for Annie.