Review: Hell Without You by Ranae Rose

hell without youReviewed by Shelly

I’ve been reading a lot of new adult stories lately. I find the majority of them to actually have adult themes – responsibility, non-selfishness, etc – the things that help to define us as adults. This is a story about 25 year-old Clementine and 26 year-old Donovan. Clementine and Donovan have known each other since they were 15 and 16 when Donovan lived in the trailer park with his drug addicted mother and Clementine lived on the nice side of town with her mother, stepfather and stepbrother.

After leaving to go to college at Columbia, Clementine has returned home to Willow Heights to wait out her time while she interviews for jobs in nearby DC. After his stint in the Marines, Donovan returned to live in work in Willow Heights. He seems to also have been waiting until Clementine made some kind of appearance back in town. Being gone for the last 7 years and without any communication between her and anyone from Willow Heights, Clementine returns to home in middle of a storm. It’s too bad that her car doesn’t make it through the flooding streets, but thank goodness for Donovan for rendering aid to her in her time of need.

I don’t know why but I felt detached from both of these characters, actually the whole storyline. There was nothing wrong with the writing or the characters. Clementine and Donovan were nice characters, not a mean spirited bone in either of them, but there was just something about these two that didn’t stir any reactions in me. Maybe it had to do with how easy Donovan accepted Clementine back into his life and how easily Clementine accepted Donovan’s help. Just too easy. It’s like neither of them had to work to prove to the other that either of them was remorseful for the way things ended before.

There was a lot about Clementine’s background I would have liked to know about. What was her life like with her mom before she met Donovan? If I’m to believe Clementine about the good relationship she had with her mother prior to her mother’s marriage to Clementine’s step-father – what precipitated the change? Was it money, power, status, what? Maybe knowing a few of these integral parts of Clementine’s childhood experiences might have made her a bit more well rounded and likable in my eyes.

I didn’t get the adult Clementine either. In the words of Donovan, she seemed ‘cold’. There was nothing about her that made me root for her relationship with Donovan. I don’t even think she was in love with him, especially as she had not seen him for 7 years. She didn’t even know that he had joined the Marines nor that he’d been stationed in Afghanistan. How, with that large amount of time apart, does she not want to know what happened to Donovan while he was away? There was no conversation about that, just some random hints by Donovan.

And I definitely didn’t understand Donovan so easily accepting Clementine back in his life after she left without saying goodbye to him when she went to college. Her argument was that he knew why she left, but that doesn’t have anything to actually saying goodbye, does it? Considering part of the way that they communicated prior to both leaving Willow Heights was by leaving notes in a secret place at her grandmother’s home, what was so hard about leaving a note there for Donovan as she’d done plenty of times in the past? That might have actually made Donovan’s actions towards Clementine more plausible to me.

The symptoms of his PTSD include sleepwalking and during some of those episodes Donovan acted out in anger, which was an issue for me because he clearly thought that he could handle dealing with his sleepwalking on his own. And maybe he could, I just didn’t see it. Prior to his service, Donovan had trouble dealing with his anger so I can’t even blame the war on that but I’m disappointed that wasn’t addressed in the story line – as it was brought up.

The story picks up a bit when Donovan is accused of a heinous crime but the way that was handled was way too clean and easy. There were a lot of things that I wanted to like about this story and I just couldn’t make myself do it. If you’re a fan of the author you might like this one.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: C

*ARC provided by author via NetGalley 

Click to purchase: Amazon

Hell WithoutYou
by Ranae Rose
Release Date: September 5, 2013

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