Sunday, 22 November 2015

Emma's Guest Review: Ella Harper - The Years of Loving You

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

What if your first love was your only love?

When Molly is diagnosed with a life changing illness, it feels like her whole world has come crashing down. She hopes the news will make her marriage to Sam stronger. But why does Molly always call best friend Ed in a crisis?

Ed. The very same Ed that Molly fell in love with at a party when they were teenagers, underneath a star-filled sky. Then life took them in very different directions. They could only ever be friends.

Suddenly Molly starts to question every decision she’s ever made. What if they could turn back the clock? Back to the very beginning. When the only certainty they shared was each other …

Amazon links: Kindle or Paperback

The Years of Loving You is the second release from Ella Harper having previously written several books under the name Sasha Wagstaff. I can see why the author decided on a name change for these new books as the writing style, themes and content are vastly different from what she has previously written. I was blown away by last years release Pieces of You and needed tissues in plentiful supply to make it through the read. It was such a raw, honest, emotional accomplished story that stayed with me for quite some time after I had finished reading. So this new book for me had an awful lot to live up to. Well Ella gets the thumbs up for me at initial glance for the cover and title alone. The title instantly strikes a chord with you and made me feel this book was going to be as gut wrenching as book number one. The cover is simple yet stunning capturing an enjoyable moment in a relationship. The vivid colours attract you to this book. But would the story between the covers be as pleasing as the above afore mentioned points? The tag line would make you think so – first love, last chance. If that didn't do it for you the epigraph maybe would 'Yours is the light by which my spirits born, you are my sun, my moon and all my stars'. This pretty much sums up the relationship our two main protagonists Molly and Ed have although they don't always know it.

The chapters are told from the alternating viewpoints of Molly and Ed between the past and the present. This was a good tactic as we got to see how each character was thinking and feeling at any given time. In the present Ed has on the spur of the moment proposed to his girlfriend Saskia but at the engagement party he sees something he would rather not and the engagement is off. Molly is supposedly happily married to Sam and enjoying her painting but a life changing diagnosis puts everything she thought was solid and true right out the window. When we read of this diagnosis I thought we were going to go down the road of Jojo Moyes as in Me Before You but we didn't. Maybe the book needed a bit of that as I think what happens to Molly could have been utilised further. It's obvious from the start and throughout this book that Molly and Ed, who first met in university, are two friends who keep missing their time to be together and have moved on with in their respect lives but deep down they are still very much in love with each other. On first meeting Ed felt like this 'The earth hadn't exactly moved but Ed's life had surely just shifted on its axis.Molly had rendered him dumb', circumstances and life's path have gotten in the way but is now the time for everything to fall into place?

As we move between the past and the present we get a sense of Ed's tough early life and all he had been through to make him the man he was today. We see so many missed opportunities and misunderstandings between himself and Molly that quite frankly became very frustrating. I wanted them to have gotten together when they could have but then that would have been an entirely different book. Ed had an awful lot to deal with as he was growing up and in his early twenties and maybe his mind was not quite focused on the strength and support right in front of him that Molly could offer. As for Molly I felt for her when she hears her upsetting news and her husband Sam irritated me beyond belief I was screaming words at the page that cannot be used here for the way he treated her. Poor Molly was just so afraid she would lose the connections she had built with the things she loved most in the world. The question remained throughout the book – when is it ok to break the boundaries between friendship and love? This kept me reading until the end if only to discover the outcome for Molly and Ed but it did become a bit predictable. Admittedly the connection revealed with the title was superb and effortlessly slipped in but to be honest the book just seemed too dragged out with the outcome inevitable. Yes it is a fantastic love story but I think I had just been too spoilt by the authors first release.

At around the 40% mark I was thinking this really isn't as good as the first book. Nothing is happening and we are reaching the halfway point, yes we have had plenty of background information and Molly has heard her life altering, devastating news. We are going between the past and present with a few paragraphs of insanely good writing but that's it the book isn't living up to my expectations (admittedly they were incredibly high) when bam Ella hits you in the face with a teasing revelation which if true could turn the story on its head. Within a few pages it comes to fruition and I was hoping this would change the whole tone of the book as the characters (not just the person involved) would all get a serious wake up call. One which when confirmed would prove actions of the past do not always stay there forgotten but can at any time come knocking on your door when least expected. At any time this would be difficult to deal with but an awkward situation when Molly needs Ed the most is not what is required or desired. Will this surprise cause a rift in the unique relationship between Molly and Ed that has the potential to become so much more or will it shatter them apart forever? Unfortunately this surprise element only lasted a few pages and in my opinion was totally under utilised and could have been developed in quite a different way which would have brought further tension and anguish which is what I wanted to see the characters go through. Ok they weren't having the easiest of rides and their indecision was particularly frustrating but this surprise wasn't covered in the best way.

Is The Years of Loving You just all too reminiscent of the hugely successful One Day? Where our two central characters side step each other for years but yet share an incredible, kindred connection obvious to everyone else except themselves. They go off and live different lives but eventually when realisation dawns it may be just too little too late. I couldn't get the One Day comparison out of my head throughout the book but putting that aside at several points the book really felt like it was going to take off but it didn't. It was like a plane just about to fly off from the runway but failing and chickening out at the last minute. I reluctantly say this because I had anticipated this book for several months, it had so much potential but just never followed through. Ok it did restore my faith that the right one is there waiting for you and if you wait long enough the right opportunity and person will present themselves. But Ed and Molly's story proved to be annoying and too drawn out. I believe if this was my first Ella Harper novel I would have really enjoyed it and it and raced through the chapters but having adored Pieces of You maybe my expectations were just set far too high to be achievable as sadly they weren't reached. Yes this is a decent enough book and most people will enjoy the story but for me it isn't the best book I have read this year but I'm sure Ella will find some new readers who will enjoy Ed and Molly's story more so than I did.

Many thanks to Harper Collins, Avon for my copy of this book to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

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