Review: How Not to Let Go by Emily Foster

Reviewed by Joanna

This book is the second part (woo finally a HEA!) to How Not to Fall, the tale where open and honest Annie falls for can’t-love-too-tormented Charles. This pair of smart cookies are medical students – Charles postdoc, Annie just entering medical school. At the end of book one (look away now if you love NA and haven’t read it!) Annie leaves Indiana – and Charles – for Boston and 8 years of her doctoral degree. He told her he couldn’t commit as after an awful childhood, he’s emotionally incapable. Attachment-avoidant. No possibility of him falling in love.

Ah, the bigger they come…

Annie had no choice but to cut off the relationship in all forms, though Charles was desperate to maintain her respect and keep her as a friend. Her experience at her new school is very tough, and our girl struggles. She misses Charles, misses the ability to talk to him about her problems, and it hurts. She has to see him at a friend’s wedding and the pain is horrible for them both.

Check this, dear reader – Charles has a voice in this book. Unlike book one, the point of view is split, just as I wanted it to be.

But where I loved the first book, where Annie’s innocent and brave take on the world was a breath of fresh air, Charles’ is the opposite. They see each other in London, at the home of his hugely interesting younger brother (albino, beautiful, musician, stutter, data genius) who is MI5 or some such, and they have to sit through a dinner with Charles’ dad. It becomes clear how the patriarch of the family screwed up all of his children. We heard in book one that the man caused Charles’ problems, and that he worries he’ll be like him. This is the guy who beat his wife so badly she miscarried. More than once. We hear from the horse’s mouth just what an asshole this guy is and see the effect on Charles. I hated this. It was so horrible and I didn’t like the way the story went with handling the father. But Charles needed to be dragged through the mire to get to real change. He has therapy, revelations and most of all, he has Annie.

Do you want to know if handsome Charles can really love?

Of course he can! It terrifies him, but once he realizes it and starts to live with it, he becomes more comfortable with the idea. It’s a shaky though permanent change.

The HEA is very hard fought for by Momma Duck. He jumps through so many flaming hoops, it’s amazing his backside doesn’t catch on fire.

His soul searching makes this a more difficult book to read than book one, as there’s less new love, and a lot more internalization where the result is bad. Charles constantly feels undeserving, and I didn’t want to be annoyed by it but sometimes I wanted to shake him by the throat. And the circular therapy thoughts got a little weighty at times.

…think about the six months it took to get out of the pit, the four months in the swamp. I’m more afraid of the mountain than I was of either of those . . . but if I can just get past the dragon—hopefully with nothing worse than a broken bone and maybe a few scorches—then I might spend all my nights with Annie’s hair tickling my nose and her breath on my chest. Then I’ll be free to love her and, if I’m very, very lucky, to receive her love. And all I have to do is climb a mountain, battle a dragon, and break through a wall of my own construction. So, okay.

It worked for me that Annie wasn’t a pushover, just steady in love. Even so, her nature is far more accepting that most people’s would be. Lesser heroines wouldn’t have been right for Charles at all.

It felt like two different books where the story shifted from one country to another (England and the States). I think Foster should try writing some Bond-style lit, as I’m convinced it would be precise and excellent for targeting a US audience. The world of a secret London spy house with snipers on the roof didn’t dovetail neatly with Annie’s world in the States, though.

The climbing themes and analogies continue, and the academia is still a focus, though that felt lesser. There is a lot of nerdy in-jokes and quoting of literature that some might find a little dry. I liked this in the first book, in this one it occasionally felt too heavy and intellectual.

The ending I thought wonderful in terms of location and final scene, and I’d love to have seen more from the author in this as it’s a clear strength. I’ve already begged her to write a book about Simon, the brother, and she’s got plans for him in mind, though two other books to write first.

Rating: B-

Click to purchase: Amazon

How Not to Let Go
by Emily Foster
Release Date: December 27, 2016
Publisher: Kensington

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