Discussion + Short Take Reviews: Ever After Always & With You Forever by Chloe Liese


So here's the thing: I've read all four books in Chloe Liese's Bergman Brothers series, with varying degrees of success. And after four books I'm still on the fence if I actually enjoy her writing. Her books fall into the good-not-great range for me and there are some elements of her writing style that just don't work for me. 

My main issue are the lengthy monologues (both internal and spoken) that Liese gives her characters. This is the most emo group of people I have ever read about and they all talk, ad nauseum, about their every feeling and emotion and want and need in a way that just doesn't ring true. I find most of the characters likable, but every time one of them starts spilling their guts with another long-winded speech I feeling like rolling my eyes and checking out. I love romance, but this oh-so-introspective kind of dialogue (can dialogue be introspective?) does not work for me. People do not engage like that (at least no one I know!) and reading it is consistently jarring and pulls me out of the story. (The #1 culprit is Viggo and, while he is seemingly good-intentioned, if/when he gets his book I know I'll have to skip it. I can't take a whole book of him.)

Then there are all the ISSUES. Every single character seems to have An Issue to be addressed. I mean, everyone. (Well, maybe not Ren. He seemed to be getting along okay.) It's like, no one in the family (including their partners) are just chugging along, doing life, and generally okay. Yes, I get that there needs to be conflict to have a story, but conflict can be created in many ways. It doesn't always have to be with physical and/or mental health. But I feel with Liese it has become a check-the-box laundry list of physical/mental health issues throughout the series. Anxiety, hearing impairment, arthritis, autism (at least three characters that I can think of), IBS... it's a lot.  I do believe that representation is important, but each book feels riddled with representation in a way that feels forced with the sheer amount of it. I feel like I'm going to get some push-back on this and that's okay, please do share your thoughts.

I know this sounds like a lot of hating on Liese's writing, but there are plenty of aspects I enjoy. I mean, I've stuck with the series through four books so obviously there's more positive than negative, right? But I am left with this dilemma: Do I continue to invest time in a series/author that usually falls in the "okay" range, or do I move on and devote my reading time to other books/authors than are better suited to my particular taste? (Spoiler: if I have to ask I probably already know the answer.)

Have you ever come across characters that felt "too emo?"
Have you ever quit an author/series due to an issue with the writing style?

Let me know in the comments! And now on to the reviews...
Series: Bergman Brothers #3

Aiden

I’ve spent twelve years loving Freya Bergman and twelve lifetimes won’t be enough to give her everything she deserves. She’s my passionate, tender-hearted wife, my best friend, and all I want is to make her happy. But the one thing that will make her happiest is the one thing I’m not sure I can give her: a baby.

With the pressure of providing and planning for a family, my anxiety’s at an all-time high, and I find myself pulling away, terrified to tell my wife how I’m struggling. But when Freya kicks me out, I realize that pulling back has turned into pushing too far. Now it’s the fight of a lifetime to save our marriage.

Freya

I love my cautious, hard-working husband. He’s my partner and best friend, the person I know I can count on most. Until one day I realize the man I married is nowhere to be found. Now Aiden is quiet and withdrawn, and as the months wear on, the pain of our growing distance becomes too much. 

As if weathering marriage counseling wasn’t enough, we’re thrown together for an island getaway to celebrate my parents’ many years of perfect marriage while ours is on the brink of collapse. Despite my meddling siblings and a week in each other’s constant company, this trip somehow gets us working through the trouble in paradise. I just can’t help worrying, when we leave paradise and return to the real world, will trouble find us again?

*****

What I Liked:

·      The Bergman clan en masse is great. The parents are wonderful and I enjoy the family dynamics. The love and respect they all have for each other is remarkable.

·      Aiden was likable and the descriptions of his anxiety felt realistic and made him empathetic.

·      I enjoy a marriage in crisis story since it delves into what happens after the happily ever after. Also since it typically means the characters are a bit older.

·      Slow burn. It seems odd to consider a story about a married couple as a slow burn, but circumstances ensured it was just that. And it was done so well.

·      More Ziggy. I really love this girl and feel a kinship with her.

·      The Axel-Rooney teaser!

But Not So Much:

·      Both Aiden and Freya were suuuper introspective and it was a lot of being in the heads of two people who were unhappy.

·      The reconciliation felt very one-sided. Freya seemed to hold none of the responsibility for their issues and Aiden was the one who had to make all the effort.

·      The final conflict concerning Aiden’s father was so unnecessary. And it’s not as if the foreshadowing was subtle. (I mean, who didn’t see that coming a mile away?)

·      All the intense, heartfelt/emo talks between Aiden and the brothers did not ring true. They didn’t feel plausible or realistic to me.

·      The oh-so-meta aspect of Viggo pushing the romance novels. *cringe*

·      All the pranks. *more cringe*

Rating: 3.5

Chloe Liese
Series: Bergman Brothers #4

Axel

Rooney Sullivan is sunshine incarnate. Warm, bright, always smiling, she’s everything I’m not and the last person I have any business desiring. Desperate to hide a hopeless attraction, I’ve done everything possible to keep my distance...until a charades game gone wrong brought that to a grinding halt. 

Since then, steering clear of Rooney has been impossible. In a matter of months, she’s kissed me speechless, commandeered my art career, and infiltrated not only my dreams but my home. The woman who was once avoidable has become the last thing I needed: temptingly within reach.

Rooney

Axel Bergman is a gorgeous grump who doesn’t have the time of day for me. Thankfully, I’ve kept my crush under wraps...well, until I kissed him. Charades got away from me, okay? It was an accident! I haven’t seen him since, which is for the best. My life is a mess, and the last thing I need is to embarrass myself further with the man who avoids me like that’s his job rather than painting modern masterpieces.

It seems the universe, however, has a different plan. When Axel and I unexpectedly find our paths—and problems—converging, a marriage of convenience proves the perfect solution. At least, until I’m facing my most serious problem yet: a once-loveless marriage of convenience that’s inconveniently become a love match, after all.

*****

What I Liked:

·      Grumpy-sunshine romance

·      Mutual pining

·      Character-driven story. Not a lot happened – it’s basically Axel and Rooney together in the woods – but I was totally okay with that. I always choose characters over plot.

·      Axel and Rooney were so likable and easy to pull for. Axel, in particular really stood out for me. He loved his family but showed it in quiet ways he was comfortable with. And seeing that extend to Rooney warmed my heart.

·      This was such a tender-hearted romance and it gave me all the feels.

·      Loved the fall vibes, the PNW setting, the cozy cabin in the woods, the holidays.

But Not So Much:

·      There was a marriage-of-convenience, which is usually fun, but nothing came of it. They never had to pretend to be married, none of the family ever found out, so there were no stakes. It made the marriage-of-convenience feel like nothing more than a handy plot device.

·      It was just a little too perfect – the oh-so-open and healthy discussions about sexual consent and boundaries, the adorable animals that brought them closer together – it made the story feel very aware of itself.

·      The uncle’s letter at the end was not necessary. It was too coincidental how his story mirrored Axel’s. 

Rating: 4


HAVE YOU READ EITHER OF THESE BOOKS?

40 comments

  1. Tanya, you slay me. I don't necessarily disagree with you are the "issues". It was confounding to see everyone in that world with so many disabilities. However, I will say I think Liese handles them well and with great sensitivity. That's what I appreciate there. I always really feel the romance in my heart too, and that's why I pick up a romance novel. Like you said, more good than bad.

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    1. I agree that Liese handles them well. She obviously knows what she writes about and uses a lot sensitivity. It does feel like a bit much to me at times, but she really does handle the subject matter well.

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  2. I appreciate that Liese wants to include these physical/mental disabilities. People can relate to them. But, I do agree with you that it does feel like a bit much. It feels like too much of the stories focus on those issues. I did enjoy that Ever After Always was about a married couple; I don't see that often in romances.

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    1. I usually enjoy a marriage in crisis story, too. A looks at what happens beyond the fall in love/happily ever after early days.

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  3. I haven't read either of these, but With You Forever sounds awesome. :)

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    1. With You Forever was one of my favorites in the series. :)

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  4. I have read the first three in the series and loved them - however, I totally agree with you that every single person seems to have some sort of mental or physical health issue. It gets to be a little over the top after a while and definitely unrealistic.

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    1. That what it was for me, too, Michelle. The fact that it started feeling like too much, and a bit unrealistic.

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  5. I haven’t read a book by this author before. But it sounds like I would have the same issues. It’s the same for me with the Moving Violations series by Lora Leigh. I enjoy enough of those books to want to keep going.. but some things just feel wrong.

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    1. Sometimes books just hit in a different way. I mean, there are some authors that I love and their writing and my connection to it is on another level. Others I may enjoy, but it's just not the same.

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  6. It's funny though cos I read these books for the emotional characters and the representation, haha! 😂 Maybe it does get a bit much when all the characters have all the issues but I think I don't mind it because a lot of the romances I read don't have a lot of rep so it's refreshing to read. I also love how well Liese handles the issues. But... then again maybe I just don't mind all of this because I'm biased with what I feel for the characters and how much I love this series! 🙈 I do agree that the marriage-of-convenience aspect of With You Forever annoyingly came to nothing at the end! That was pretty disappointing... I'm wondering if the next book(s) in the series will be different though cos they'll be focusing on Oliver and Viggo?

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    1. See? Perfect example of how not every book is for every reader, but there are readers out there for every book! :) I so agree that Liese handles the rep well, but it's just a bit much for me. And I was so wanting more from the marriage of convenience! I was so bummed when nothing ever came of it.

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  7. Yeah, I wouldn't continue on if I were you. But man, Aiden and Freya sound like reading about them would depress me with how we're always in their heads and how unhappy they are. Not a book for me to be sure!

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    1. Yep, I think I'm ready to move on from the series. If Ziggy ever gets her own book I'll probably read that one, but otherwise, I'd rather spend my reading time on books that I love, not just like.

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  8. Haa but you have some very valid points there. As I often have similar taste to yours, I am not sure if I'd love these or not either!

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    1. Well, I will say that I'm in the minority in my feelings, but that's nothing new! LOL

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  9. Sorry you're not loving this series. I can understand your points. Especially the marriage of convenience on the last one. It felt odd that they didn't have to tell anyone or deal with anything relating to it in the story. But I did love all of these books. I listened to several of them. I wonder if that changes the experience much?

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    1. Yeah, I was a bit surprised/disappointed that absolutely nothing came of the marriage. There were zero stakes involved, so... ?? I actually did listen to all four of the books on audio and I really enjoyed the narration. I like that all of them have kept the same two narrators. :)

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  10. Great post, Tanya, and I appreciate everything you said here. I've not tried this author yet, but I've see this in some other series where the inclusion of certain things actually starts to feel very formulaic, like they're checking off boxes making sure they included things that worked well in prior books. It makes sense to a degree but there's definitely a fine line between doing it well and overkill. I find it unrealistic to think of every character in a story having some physical or mental condition that they're dealing with. I do have a couple of her books saved on my kindle so I'm curious to see if what you mentioned becomes an issue for me as well.

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    1. Thanks Suzanne. :) Inclusion is important but it does feel like overkill to me in this series. But I will say that I seem to be in the minority in my feelings and most people love her books and all the diversity. And it's not like I dislike them - I mean, 3.5 and 4 stars is good! But the writing style isn't my favorite so I'll probably move on.

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  11. I very much agree that monologuing, especially when it is internal, can take you out of the story and really slog down the pace. I also relate to reading multiple books in a series that you aren't sure you actually enjoy. For me, Jeff Lindsey's writing kind of betrayed the cool character and setup in his Dexter series. Don't get me wrong, I read each of the books in the series, but I feel like the writing could have made the story so much better than it actually ended up being.

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    1. Right? It's like, I kept reading each new release but at the same time I was thinking: am I really enjoying these? Probably time to move on.

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  12. I get tired of lengthy inner monologues, too. Especially if the person is miserable. Yeah, I feel like representation is great, but it should feel natural, not feel like it's added to check a box. I'd move on. Why waste your time on books that are just okay for you?

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    1. Yep, that about sums it up, Rachel. Why waste my time on books that are just okay? I think it's safe to say that after four books I've given Liese a fair shot. :) Time to move on.

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  13. I'd probably give up on an author if I felt the way you do when it comes to Leise. It's not worth sifting through all the chaff to get the occasional gem (like Ren Bergman) when reading time is at a premium.
    I wouldn't say I'm a fan of lengthy internal monologues but I've only read one of her books so far and can't remember being bothered by any... :/

    I do want to read With You Forever as I love the sound of grumpy Axel. :)

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    1. Yeah, I'm probably ready to move on from Liese. Like you said, reading time is precious... I'd rather spend it on books that I really love and am excited for.

      II hope you enjoy With You Forever. Axel really is a sweetheart and I gave that one 4 stars.

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  14. I'm glad you were able to enjoy these even if they weren't perfect. It can definitely be exhausting to live in someone's head when they're miserable. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks Tracy! Yeah, I found myself so ready to move on to some characters that were happy! LOL

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  15. Middle of the road books are the hardest to review and to know how to feel about. I don't think that I would like the monologues but I am glad it has some strong points.

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    1. So true, Carole. I do find those kinds of books harder to review.

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  16. Sorry the series isn't working out so well for you. But that's definitely the way it goes sometimes. What doesn't work out for one person is perfect for the next.

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    1. Exactly, Alison. Not every book is going to be a hit for every single reader. No matter how hyped they are. LOL

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  17. I haven't read any of the books in this series yet, but they are high up on my tbr. As someone who hasn't read them, I did know they have a lot of representation. I kind of assumed that was the running theme throughout the series... that each book focused on a character with a different physical or mental health issue? But I've also avoided reading too many reviews to avoid spoilers. Ha! Great post!

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    1. It's definitely a running theme, Dedra. Each book focuses on another member of the Bergman family and everyone seems to be dealing with a physical and/or mental health issue. It's just a bit much for me. But that's just me and I am in the minority (as usual LOL). I hope you'll love them if/when you get around to them.

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  18. For me most writing style's I can handle and with this type of dialogue it really depends on the author. Some authors if they write it well enough, it won't bother me. My issue with writing styles is more pacing, I need to be engaged by the story. But I can see why this would be a struggle for you. Its rare for me to come across a writing style in this way but it does happen and it can take out some enjoyment of the story. So I feel you on this.

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    1. I agree, Renee, it's definitely all in how it's handled. Like I mentioned, there have always been more positives than negatives in Liese's books for me, but it's still probably time for me to move on from the series.

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  19. I kind of love low stakes romance but I don't like tons of introspection and discussing everything to death so these might not be the best fit for me.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

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    1. Discussing everything to death seems to be a hallmark of the series so it's not really the best fit for me, either.

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  20. Oh my goodness, that's so difficult. For me, I know I'd walk away. I can only handle so much heartache in ways, in books, that remind me of others around me. I'm way to sensitive to stuff like that. But the fact that you've already read so many books by her and enjoy a lot of components in them, ack, good luck with this decision! Hugs!
    Jen @ Star-Crossed Book Blog

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    1. I know! It's like, the books aren't huge hits for me, but they are okay and I'm four books in... gah! This just should not be that big a decision. LOL

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