Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Book Review: Only Love Can Hurt Like This

By Becky Gulc

It has been way too long since I read a Paige Toon novel! I shared my love for Paige’s writing way back in 2012 (when I first started reviewing for the blog) as part of an author tribute for International Chick Lit Month (Chick Lit Central: Toon in TODAY!). Although I hadn’t read Paige’s more recent novels, I was determined to rectify this when I was inundated on social media with positivity and praise for her latest novel, Only Love Can Hurt Like This. Part of me wondered if, as time has gone by, whether I would enjoy the book as much as I had previous novels, but I’m pleased to say I loved this book. So what is the novel about?

‘Neither of them expected to fall in love. But sometimes life has other plans.

When Wren realises her fiancé is in love with someone else, she thinks her heart will never recover.

On the other side of the world, Anders lost his wife four years ago and is still struggling to move on.

Wren hopes that spending the summer with her dad and step-family on their farm in Indiana will help her to heal. There, amid the cornfields and fireflies, she and Anders cross paths and their worlds are turned upside-down again.

But Wren does not know that Anders is harbouring a secret, and if he acts on any feelings he has for Wren it will have serious fall-out for everyone.

Walking away would hurt Wren more than she can imagine. But, knowing the truth, how can she possibly stay?’ (Synopsis courtesy of Penguin UK.)

I developed a soft-spot for all of the main characters, I felt I grew to understand them all slowly and surely, as Wren does herself. I particularly found Wren’s relationship with her dad, stepmother, and half-sister interesting and very moving at times. The book captures the complexities of parental relationship breakdown for children and the challenges of blended families were covered well. I could resonate with some of Wren’s feelings, so this element of the story drew me in in particular and I loved the scenes with Wren and her half-sister Bailey and how their relationship developed.  

Then of course there’s Anders, and again let’s just say Paige is extremely reliable at creating delectable love interests! I instantly loved Anders, and his vulnerability, strength and good-heart came across right from the beginning. On the other hand, Anders is a hard to read character and I loved to see how Wren interacted with him and challenged him and his path, and how he interacted with his family, in particular, his brother Jonas who he cares deeply about and is very protective towards. 

We know from the synopsis that Anders is struggling himself with loss. I don’t want to spoil anything, but needless to say I didn’t pre-empt how his story would evolve and what would be revealed, but it made complete sense when it did. Again, Paige deals with a sensitive situation carefully and with respect and I just ended up loving the characters even more. This reveal came at just the right point in the novel for me; it was quite far in and I think that just shows how clever the writing is to not guess what’s coming, or necessarily to expect that something is coming that is so profound. Very clever.

The setting, as ever with Paige, is so clear to picture I felt like I was right there in Indiana with Wren on the farm and playing pool with Wren and Bailey and the boys in the bar. 

This is a book which definitely made me feel warm and cosy inside and I need to see these characters in future novels, please, to check-in on them! Now my review is done I shall go back to singing the song (Paloma Faith) which has been on my brain a lot recently which isn’t a bad thing! 

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