How Not To Let Go- Emily Foster
From the author of How Not to Fall comes an electrifying, powerful new story about love, trust, and emotional surrender.
Once upon a time, med student Annie Coffey set out to have a purely physical fling with Charles Douglas, a gorgeous British doctor in her lab. It didn't quite work out that way. Instead, secrets and desires were bared, hearts were broken, and Annie knew she had to leave this complicated, compelling man who remains convinced he can never give her what she needs.
Walking away is one thing. Staying away is another. Annie and Charles reunite at a London conference, rekindling a friendship they struggle to protect from their intense physical connection. Little by little, Annie gets a glimpse into Charles s dark past and his wealthy, dysfunctional family. Soon, she s discovering what it means to have someone claim her, body and soul. And she's learning that once in a lifetime you find a love that can make you do anything except let go.
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Review- 4.5 Stars
I've been anxiously awaiting the follow up to How Not To Fall (my review here) since June. I have a love-hate relationship with duologies, often preferring to wait to read them until both parts have been published but I was so curious about how Emily Foster (aka Emily Nagoski) would write a romance novel that I could not wait. I flew through How Not To Fall and could not wait to see how Charles and Annie's love story concluded.
When we last saw them, Annie had broken up with Charles and moved across the country to start graduate school. How Not To Let Go is about how Annie learns to heal from the break up. Reading Annie's heartbreak was painful. Charles feels he is not capable of loving someone else because of his abusive father (this broke my heart again and again!) Annie's love was not enough to change him and she has to grapple with that fact and figure out how to do life without her best friend.
Eventually they meet up while attending a conference in England. My heart was in my throat with their every interaction. There is so much mutual affection and regard for one another. While I knew Charles couldn't magically get over his issues, I wished so badly he could and I was impressed with Annie's self-awareness and how magnanimous she could be toward him in spite of her heartache.
Whereas the first book showed Charles as the person holding more power, being generally older, wiser, and more experienced, this book shows how Annie has that position, being emotionally balanced and able to care for herself and others. I loved when we got to see Annie through Charles's eyes and what all he learns from her.
Indeed, it is Charles's growth as a character that puts this book on my favorite list for this year. Foster gave us one of the best depictions of a character working through past trauma and their own inner demons I've ever seen. She also shows what a healthy relationship should look like. It is marvelous to watch it play out, especially because Annie so clearly cannot save Charles. He has to do the work himself. He has to decide to do the work. And he does.
Annie believes in Charles completely. She keeps telling him he's the best man she knows, even when he cannot believe that about himself. Annie needed to learn how to let him work through things on his own and to trust this could eventually bring them back together. Or that she could learn how to love him where he was at, even if he could never love her the way she wanted. This was remarkable to see.
The way it built toward the HEA was phenomenal. The characters go through a lot together and apart. In fact, they're apart more than they are together, which is unusual for the genre but it is imperative for the sake of their relationship. There are no instant fixes and I loved how Foster incorporated this into the story.
I also loved how we got to see Charles's relationship with his brother and his mother. The scene of them all dancing to ABBA in the kitchen was one of my favorites!
There were a few moments where I felt a distance between myself as a reader and the characters, likely due to Foster's narrative style and her background. It can get pretty scienc-y in places, which usually works and is interesting but can also create a disconnect. These moments never lasted long though.
I'm all in favor of smart romance and find Foster/Nagoski's background as a sex educator makes for a compelling romance reading experience. I had to write a few passages down, not only because the writing was lovely but because it struck me as sound relationship advice.
I hope she'll keep writing in this vein. Charles and Annie's love story should be read and enjoyed by all!
"To love someone is to love the process of them, not just the way they are but the way they grow. To witness a human's personal evolution is to worship at the altar of their true selfhood. And all you have to do is listen well. Listen to what they say, what they don't say, and the context in which they're saying it. Keep listening. And then listen some more." p. 204
Disclosure: I was provided an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links included in this post.