What is it about toxic love stories that are so intriguing? It's like a train wreck that you cannot help but look at. You weirdly crave the visceral reaction and polarization that they bring out of you. So many of us have been in a toxic relationship and there is something macabre but comforting and vindicating reading about others in similar situations. Both Adelaide by Genevieve Wheeler and I Could Live Here Forever by are stories of struggling relationships. Each story has its own unique traits, but both have the same underlying theme; until you can fully love yourself, you cannot love another and seeking that feeling of completion in another is a losing battle. Both loves stories encompass a different struggle; mental health in the case of Adelaide and substance abuse in the case of I Could Live Here Forever. I loved how both showed a realistic point of view and touched on relatable themes.
Adelaide Williams is a 26-year-old American living the dream in Londen when she is swept off her feet by a charming Englishman, Rory Hughes. Adelaide falls for Rory fast and hard and finds herself compromising much of herself and other relationships to appease Rory. Both Adelaide and Rory have past trauma and unresolved issues that they bring into the relationship, which creates a tumultuous love story with high highs and low lows. Rory is noncommittal, unresponsive, and keeps Adelaide on a rollercoaster with his hot and cold personality. I felt so frustrated for Adelaide that I wanted to throw this book at the wall many times. Adelaide romanticizes her life to the point where she doesn't realize the emotional abuse Rory is putting her through. She searches for something in Rory to complete her, while eventually learning she needs to find happiness in herself first.
I read this one in a few sittings and couldn't put it down, but does that mean it was a good book? I am still processing my thoughts on this one. Part of me related so much to Adelaide in the way that I've been in a one-sided unhealthy relationship before and it is all consuming, but another part was so frustrated and annoyed and felt like the story was anticlimactic. There is so much to chew on with this book that aspects of the plot that felt slow were also made up for in the important way that Wheeler addresses mental health.
Still mulling this one over....it for sure has me thinking, so maybe it was a good book? Maybe I liked it? Or maybe I didn't? Or maybe this book gaslit me as much as Rory did to Adelaide!
Content trigger warnings: emotional abuse, suicidal ideation, sexual assault, miscarriage
I Could Live Here Forever
Leah Kempler meets Charlie Nelson in line at the grocery store and feels an immediate connection. He is intelligent, shy, endearing and expressive with his love, and she cannot stop thinking about him. Charlie does have some peculiarities, he still lives with his mother, he doesn't have a steady job, he seems to have health issues and sleeps more than usual. Leah learns from Charlie that he is a recovering heroin addict. Charlie's addiction plays a major role in their relationship and Leah uncovers that for portions of their time together he had relapsed. She questions if she knew the real Charlie but is determined not to give up on him because she loves him and sees so much potential in him.
I devoured this book in two days. Leah gives up so much of herself to be with Charlie and wants so badly for the relationship to be what saves them both. My heart absolutely ached for her and, much like Adelaide, I felt so much frustration and wanted to throw my book at the wall. I thought the author did a lovely way of writing an honest depiction of how substance abuse affects the user and their loved ones. I Could Live Here Forever was also the book choice for the Belletrist book club-great choice ladies! There is a lot to unpack with this one and it would make a great book club discussion.
Content/trigger warnings: drug addiction/abuse, death of a loved one
Other Toxic Love Story Recs:
*click the title links for my review*
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (please check out content/trigger warnings)