I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Love Lies Beneath by Ellen Hopkins
Published by Atria Books on July 21st 2015
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Also by this author: Triangles, Crank, Burned
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Collateral comes a gripping novel about a woman caught in a love affair that could be her salvation…or her undoing.
Tara is gorgeous, affluent, and forty. She lives in an impeccably restored Russian Hill mansion in San Francisco. Once a widow, twice divorced, she’s a woman with a past she prefers keeping to herself.
Enter Cavin Lattimore. He’s handsome, kind, charming, and the surgeon assigned to Tara following a ski accident in Lake Tahoe. In the weeks it takes her to recover, Cavin sweeps her off her feet and their relationship blossoms into something Tara had never imagined possible. But then she begins to notice some strange things: a van parked outside her home at odd times, a break-in, threatening text messages and emails. She also starts to notice cracks in Cavin’s seemingly perfect personality, like the suppressed rage his conniving teenage son brings out in him, and the discovery that Cavin hired a detective to investigate her immediately after they met.
Now on crutches and housebound, Tara finds herself dependent on the new man in her life—perhaps too much so. She’s handling rocky relationships with her sister and best friend, who are envious of her glamour and freedom; her prickly brother-in-law, who is intimidated by her wealth and power; and her estranged mother. However perfect Tara’s life appears, things are beginning to get messy.
Writing in beautiful prose, Ellen Hopkins unveils a new style while evoking her signature poetic form that readers fell in love with in Collateral and Triangles.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
I don’t even know where to begin with this epic disaster. I’m just as shocked as you are… Ellen Hopkins! One of my all-time favorites! The one I’ve always been able to rely on for a beautifully written story with a moving plot. Love Lies Beneath was nothing like I’ve come to expect from Hopkins and while change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in this case, she strayed from her verse style and opted for a typical style of writing and it was a major fail. I can’t even soften this (or shorten my rant) so I don’t come off as a complete asshole because I am completely shocked at how straight up horrible this was. Me. Rating an Ellen Hopkins 1 star. Hell hath frozen over.
First off, I need to mention that I read the short story that is listed as a prequel story called On the Rocks. I’m all for anything that adds a new level of understanding and from what other reviewers said, reading it before Love helped you to understand Tara and Graham’s relationship better. (cue insane laughter) I have to basically spoil the short story in order to properly explain the beginning of my aggravations, so you’ve been warned.
Tara is introduced as a powerful, self-sufficient woman who is also a recent widow. She takes what she wants, in life and in the bedroom, and has no qualms about doing so. Graham meets twenty-three-year-old Tara for the first time in a local pawnshop, which she’s owner. He’s been seeing this other girl recently, but he thinks Tara is really something so he calls her a few days later to ask her out on a date. They hit it off, end up in bed together, and in the morning he leaves to go meet his girlfriend for lunch. Yeah, he’s a real charmer. Long story short, his girlfriend’s sister is meeting them and go figure, Tara is the sister that shows up. Talk about awkward. The aggravations began when I picked up Love and noted some SERIOUS inconsistencies.
When Love opens, there’s a serious jump in time. Tara is now forty and is now a three-time divorceé who spends her time in the gym or working on fundraising. One of her exes is a politician who takes care of all her expenses still so she doesn’t have to do any real work. Graham ended up married to her sister and they have three children together. Tara and Graham hate each other and the short story was supposed to be the key to explaining it all. But that’s where I ran into a major snag:
‘…would it have been better to confide the fact that Graham had tried to sleep with me?’
Wait. TRIED to sleep with her? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought it was pretty clear in the short story they slept together.
‘They fuck for hours, until there’s nothing left to fuck away-no loneliness, no frustration, no pain, no thirst.’
Uh, yeah. I don’t think that could be any more clear. Yet I believe I counted at least three instances which mentioned how he hates her because she “turned him down”… TWENTY YEARS AGO. Because that makes complete sense for him to hate her after that long and after marrying her sister and having kids together for him to still hold a grudge for all that. Even if the story upheld the short stories claim that they slept together, it still wouldn’t be realistic for him to hate her after all that time.
Alright, so on to my next issue. Tara. Tara is not a character you will grow fond of. I’ve read my fair share of unlikeable characters and this alone won’t bring a story down for me. What brought it down is Tara is a total cliché and could not be more of a cardboard cutout. Her narrative is ridiculous and uninspiring and the motivations behind her mannerisms are chalked up to an absent mother that slept around with a bunch of men. But the things that would come out of her mouth were straight-up cringe worthy. Here are a few treasures I saved:
“No. You broke even, minus the three hundred you gave away. You could have lost the whole thing! Who does that? Who takes that kind of risk?
She is seriously clueless. “It’s only money, Mel.”
“Kayla’s been heading in the wrong direction for a while now. I’m afraid she’s lost all sense of reason.”
I’ve heard marijuana can do that to a person, and what if it’s become a gateway to harder stuff?
‘I’ve relied on condoms for intermittent liaisons, and remained herpes and fetus-free. Should I worry now? At my age, is what’s left of my egg stash even viable?
Oh well, if things go wrong, there’s always abortion.’
And my favorite:
‘The burgers, at least, don’t disappoint, and the fries are worth every fat-soaked bite. Good thing I didn’t eat earlier.’
Yeah, she’s a fabulous person. But she’s just so terribly written that she comes off as laughable and I’m not sure that’s what was intended. Speaking of the writing, compared to her more lush verse stories, this reads like somebody completely different wrote it. It’s oversimplified and the supposed “mystery” is something that’s thrown in for a half-assed twist at the end which made it all the more ludicrous. In addition to changing her writing style, she added in a whole lot more sex scenes than I had seen before from her, even in her other adult novels. Suffice it to say that I found them laughable as well and I’m certain that’s definitely not what she intended.
But personally, I want to lick him, forehead to foreskin. Hmm. Does he have foreskin? Damn, now I’m wondering.
Then I unhinge my jaw, which is what it takes for my mouth to accept the whole thing, and I teach him the meaning of head, Tara-style […]
I’m not sure when but she apparently transformed into a snake at some point. I missed that scene.
And this completely creepy mental image:
Completely engorged, his cock crawls up the backs of my legs.
Um. Cocks don’t do that. Maybe he should have that looked at.
And if all that wasn’t bad enough, towards the end she has this medical crisis and was a complete idiot about it. She had a reaction to something she ate and had to use her epi pen and considering I personally have to carry an epi-pen and know exactly how all that shit goes, the scene was completely enraging. She describes injecting herself and how the swelling in her eyes and face, as well as the hives, began to immediately shrink. And how she went to the bathroom to look at herself in the mirror, noted that her skin was slack from being all stretched out so she applied some tightening lotion. Uh, that’s not how that works, at fucking all. Your swelling doesn’t go away that quickly. But the icing on the fucking cake:
‘All the literature says to call 911 or go into the ER after an episode capped with epinephrine. But I want to go to the beach.’
And I’m done. I’m baffled. So completely shocked. I can’t even comprehend.