|Synopsis||Lowen Ashleigh is commissioned to finish famous author Verity Crawford's book series. Instead, she finds an unfinished manuscript that appears to be a biography of Verity’s life, and its contents shock her.|
|Release Date||October 26, 2021|
Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer who was commissioned to finish another author’s book series. The author, Verity Crawford, was in a car accident that left her in a coma and her husband, Jeremy, takes care of her. Upon coming to the Crawford house to go through Verity’s notes, Lowen finds an unfinished manuscript that appears to be a biography of Verity’s life since she met Jeremy. Lowen begins reading, and the shock-fest starts. The biography is full of Verity and Jeremy’s sexual encounters before and during marriage. Lowen gets sick of reading about their intimate life and instead provides a summary of what she reads between spending time with Jeremy and his son, Crew. When she gets to the instance of Verity’s horrific child abuse, everything changes.
I’ve read several romance novels throughout my life, but never one quite like Verity. This book shocked me with how dark the subject matter became even from the first couple of chapters, and it only got worse from there. The typical romance tropes are present, but they are completely overshadowed by the amount of horrible, abusive actions one of the characters commits. Actions so foul, they’re nearly irredeemable from a human viewpoint. The graphic sexual scenes are indeed blush-worthy and entirely skippable without losing much from the storyline. I’m glad I was able to get it pretty cheap from Walmart because I don’t know that I would’ve spent full price to read something so triggering yet so cliché.
Due to extremely mature content, this book is recommended by the publisher for readers 18+. Sensitive topics that may be triggering to some readers include graphic death/murder, child abuse, attempted abortion, and graphic sex.
Spiritual Content: There is little to no spiritual content in the book other than prayer being used as an insincere plea for help.
Violence: Infant abuse and child death are mentioned several times, and the murder of an adult is explained in detail.
Language/Crude Humor: Just about every curse word is used in this book multiple times. Dark humor is a coping mechanism by two characters.
Sexual Content: Graphic depictions of sex and allusions to other people’s sex lives are prominent throughout the book.
Drug/Alcohol Use: Alcohol is used. Mentions of prescription drug abuse.
Other Negative Themes: Infidelity, abuse, hateful feelings toward another human, and lusting after someone else’s spouse.
Positive Content: Not much, except a child playing innocently and a husband caring for his wife who is in a vegetative state.
I’m honestly not sure where to begin with this review. The story itself would be interesting enough for most readers. Unfortunately, Colleen Hoover goes into way too much detail, making readers put the book down (several times) just to take a breather. The graphic sex scenes are so lacking in intimacy, romance, and care that it’s hard to consider this a “romance” novel. It’s rough, dark, pornographic, and uncomfortable. The descriptions of how the wife in the story commits child abuse throughout her children’s lives are heart-breaking. I’m no stranger to true crime novels and podcasts, and I thought I’d seen and heard it all. This book brought new dangers to life. While I understand that these actions could be a result of pre-/post-natal psychosis, to have it described in such a jarring way was enough to make me nauseous.
The romance tropes are common and unremarkable. Sad man meets a lonely woman, they become semi-acquainted through unconnected events, become friendly, fall for each other, resist becoming intimate until they can’t anymore, and a shocking event breaks them apart only to push them back together in the end. However, everything that happens in-between is anything but cliché.
SPOILER ALERT! The below section contains spoilers for Verity. As they are intense and triggering, I felt it necessary to discuss in this review. If you are triggered by child abuse and death, please skip to the next section titled “Final Thoughts.”
The intense hatred Verity has for her twins is palpable in this book. She is completely obsessed with her husband and immediately resents her twins for being conceived and “making him love them more than her.” She details times she tried to induce miscarriage by falling down stairs, taking pills she shouldn’t, hurting herself, and even attempting a home abortion with a coat hanger. This supposedly causes a permanent scar on one of the twin’s faces after they are born. Because of this, she favors that twin, Chastin, over the other. So much so that she nearly refuses to feed or take care of Harper. She often leaves the babies in their cribs during the day, screaming and crying, so she can work on her novels with earplugs in. When Jeremy gets home, he takes care of them so she can continue her work. He’s convinced that she has been caring for them all day.
One night, the twins are screaming in their cribs, and Verity gets up to “check on” them. She had a dream Harper killed her twin — the favored Chastin — by removing her face. Verity can’t shake the belief that it was a premonition. I won’t detail it too much here, but Verity nearly kills Harper by suffocating her. She realizes the baby monitors are still on and is afraid that Jeremy saw her, but he never mentions it. This is the first indication that things are not as they seem, which is a common theme in the book.
The next time something tragic befalls this family is when the girls are at a sleepover. Chastin is deathly allergic to nuts and somehow ingests them. Verity is convinced Harper had something to do with this and blames her entirely for Chastin’s untimely death. Even going so far as screaming at Harper for “not being sad enough.” She also mentions being mad at Jeremy for being sad all the time and paying more attention to Harper and Crew, their youngest child, than Verity. There is obviously something wrong with this woman if this is her reaction to losing one of her children.
The final tragedy involving the kids comes a few chapters later. Verity is with Harper and Crew near the lake in their backyard. She offers to take them out in the canoe. After a few minutes, she purposely tips the canoe and chooses to save only Crew and let Harper drown in the lake. She is afraid that Crew will tell Jeremy that she chose not to save Harper and sends him away to call Jeremy for help. She pretends to look for Harper, all the while “praying” that she has already drowned and is beyond saving. The lack of compassion and love for her child is jarring and painful to read. She’s so convinced that Harper killed Chastin that she decides this is the best way to even the score. Her one mistake is that she told Crew to hold his breath before tipping the canoe and Jeremy questions her about this. That’s when she makes the decision to take the most drastic step to win Jeremy’s affection and attention back to her — she’s going to drive her own car into a tree.
After the accident, Verity is in a vegetative state. She has a daytime nurse and Jeremy takes care of her at night. The protagonist, Lowen, swears she sees Verity at different times in different places in the house, but Jeremy assures her that’s impossible. Crew even ends up with a knife in his hand in his mom’s room while talking to her, but Jeremy grabs it before anything happens. The twist at the end of this book is too unbelievable to be real, but I won’t spoil that part here. Suffice to say, nothing is as it seems in the Crawford household.
The ending was shocking enough that it has stayed with me even after finishing. However, I still would not recommend this book to romance or mystery novel lovers. The way the story is presented was interesting enough, but the plot was so twisted and dark that it overshadowed any intrigue Hoover had instilled in me as a reader. The amount of child abuse, death, adultery, explicit sex, and cliché tropes are enough to make even a non-believer put this book down and not pick it back up. As a believer, I cannot recommend this book to other believers based on the graphic nature itself.
+ Intriguing storytelling devices
+ Unpredictable twists
+ Well-developed characters
- Sexual Content
- Child abuse/death details
- Cliché Romance tropes
- Foul Language
- Ending was unexpected, but unbelievable
The Bottom Line
This book is riddled with curse words, graphic sex, and violence against children. I would not recommend this to any reader, especially Christian readers.