Note: I'm uploading my books from Goodreads and since there are like 200+ it's going to take awhile. The uploading seems a bit wonky too, so hang with me as I fix things. Also there may be spoilers until I can make all the appropriate tags.
I'm an ex-English Major who, sick of reading classics after college, decided to read all the trashy books I didn't before because I was too snobby. Since graduating, I've entertained myself with comics, YA, and romance novels, finding out they can not only be decently written, but superbly written. I've since recovered from my classics aversion, but I'm now more open-minded reader willing to read from any genre. If a book has kick-ass heroines and/or witty banter and/or takes place in a different time or place (including fantasy settings), I will most likely fall in love with it. My favorite authors are Jane Austen, Shakespeare, E.M. Forster, Meljean Brook, Sarah Rees Brennan, Rachel Hartman, Catherynne M. Valente, and Aliette de Bodard.
2.5 out of 5 Stars
Leaving off where Bared to You left off, billionaire Gideon Cross and Eva Trammel try to work through their pasts as child sexual abuse survivors and their destructive tendencies, while becoming further and further obsessed with each other.
There are some things I really like about this novel (and series) and some things I absolutely want to burn to ashes. Sadly, this book seemed to focus more on the burning ashes than the things I enjoyed in the first book.
I read Bared to You because it was reviewed as a better written version of 50 Shades. I knew it had probably the biggest trope I hate in romance novels – the controlling alpha-male asshole. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t like Gideon very much, but Bared to You had me rooting for him and Eva. I loved Eva’s voice and her self-awareness. I loved the secondary characters, especially Cary, Eva’s messed-up best friend. I was riveted by two very damaged people and how they fought to be together. I liked how the book didn’t disguise the unhealthy parts of their relationship and their problems were being worked through realistically, with therapy instead of the ‘healing power of lurve.’ Overall, my takeaway was positive. While I still didn’t drink the caveman kool aid, I felt Gideon was right for Eva and wanted them to be together.
However, Reflected in You lost much of what I loved about Bared. In fact, by the end, I felt Eva would be better off without Gideon and if she does stick with him, it will only lead to tragedy. The fight, passion, and self-awareness I saw in Eva in the first book were gone and replaced by a wimpy doormat. Gideon’s possessiveness ratchets up to 11, putting him into crazy possessive stalker territory. Instead of focusing on the very real emotional obstacles in their relationship, the book uses outside forces such as exes to create petty drama between the two.
The first part is filled with petty fights and 7th grade emotional outbursts. Gideon and Eva constantly use sex to solve the problems in their relationship, even when their therapist (who they go to for fun I guess, because they don’t listen to a word he says) points it out. Eva lets Gideon string her along while he doesn't tell her anything about himself and Eva pouts, fights, and then gives into him because he’s just sooooooooooooo hot. Gideon has Eva tailed by security (who intercede when she harmlessly flirts with other men), his chauffeur follow her, wishes to have her followed to the bathroom that is 20-feet away, demands she have him drive her to work and eat at her desk (without explanation), watches her from security banks, and manipulates elevators in his own buildings to talk to her. He doesn’t respect Eva’s space or trust her to make any decisions on her own. He constantly says things like “You're not going to get a hundred percent equality in this relationship.” Like WTF? (And Gideon, you can’t have 50% equality. Equality doesn’t work like that. YOU’RE AN IDIOT).
Also, the sex scenes? RIDICULOUS. It started to be like one every 5 pages and I was getting sick of the sex because it didn’t do anything to further the plot and just kept enforcing destructive behavior. I love me some good sex scenes, but there are only so many ‘hard long cocks’ and ‘shattering orgasms’ before it gets repetitive. The sex isn’t all that groundbreaking. They basically just fuck multiple times in the three main positions (which granted is a step up from the erotic missionary sex of the first book).
The second part was better because Gideon basically drops Eva like a sack of oats (for reasons he doesn’t tell her because adult conversations and talking things through don’t lead to pointless irritating drama) and the focus is more on Eva and secondary characters. Cary was as awesome as ever. Despite his flaws, I find him completely lovable (though I do hate how Eva and the text insinuate the women he sleeps with are sluts). He’s a ray of sunshine amidst Eva and Gideon’s constant ‘wah wah fuckfuckfuck.’ I loved how Eva’s Mom and Dad wanted to eat each other up, but were totally wrong for each other (though Eva talking about her ‘smoking hot dad’ was really really weird).
Eva finally does start to stick up for herself at the end and takes a proactive position. Eva puts her foot down, forcing Gideon to *finally* tells her his past. Still, after chewing Gideon out, she always puts herself down, undoing all the ‘YEAH GURRRRRRRRRRRL!’ that came before. Gideon finally fesses up at the very end, so I do wonder if the first half was just filler to unnecessarily drag out the story.
The ending completely shocked me. In some ways, it shows how perfect Gideon and Eva are for each other, but at the same time, Eva now ‘owes’ Gideon.
Eva is dark enough and violent enough to want someone dead, but I don’t know if that’s a healthiest part to bring out of her. I mean, whatever POS rapist Nathan was, was killing him the answer? Does Gideon have the right to pass judgment like that? I mean HE KILLED SOMEONE. But the narrative implies that this is a good thing, a noble thing, not only through Eva’s somewhat flawed (but clearly not flawed enough) perspective, but the FREAKING HOMICIDE DETECTIVE INVESTIGATING THE MURDER as well. I hated how the detective was basically like ‘Yeah, he killed a dude. Isn’t he the most awesome bestest boyfriend EVA?
This only reaffirms Gideon’s godlike status (not to mention he can use his incredible wealth and influence to cover up) and that his crazy stalker ‘I rule the world’ tendencies are in the RIGHT. And I don’t agree with that. AT ALL.
I think I could enjoy these books more if they weren’t romance, but a story between two people who become unhealthily obsessed with each other (like Wuthering Heights –another not-romance). I enjoy the author’s voice, I love many of the secondary characters, and I like Eva and am rooting for her. Sadly, Reflected in You changed my mind and made me believe Gideon was not the way for Eva to find happiness. Great sex only goes so far. I can’t imagine either of these two with a happy ending. Gideon brings out the worst in Eva and I wish there was someone better for her than Gideon. Losing herself in a man when she’s finally accepting herself for the first time after having lost so much of herself seems tragic, not romantic.