Monday, February 9, 2015

Review: The Five Stages of Falling in Love by Rachel Higginson

The Five Stages of Falling in Love
The Five Stages of Falling in Love
by Rachel Higginson
January 27, 2015
305 pages
Genre: Women's Fiction, Romance
Contains: some language, sexual references
Source: eARC for Honest review

The Five Stages of Falling in Love is a Contemporary Romance.
Elizabeth Carlson is living in the pits of hell- also known as grief.

Her husband of eight years, the father of her four children and the love of her life, died from cancer. Grady's prognosis was grim, even from the start, but Liz never gave up hope he would survive. How could she, when he was everything to her?

Six months later, she is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and get the kids to school on time. Both seem impossible. Everything seems impossible these days.

When Ben Tyler moves in next door, she is drowning in sorrow and pain, her children are acting out, and the house is falling apart. She has no time for curious new friends or unwanted help, but Ben gives her both. And he doesn't just want to help her with yard work or cleaning the gutters. Ben wants more from Liz. More than she's capable of ever giving again.

As Liz mourns her dead husband and works her way through the five stages of grief, she finds there's more of her heart to give than she thought possible. And as new love takes hold, she peels away the guilt and heartache, and discovers there's more to life than death.

The Five Stages of Falling in Love is a very thoughtful, heartfelt journey to opening oneself up to second chances at falling in love when you've lost your first love. This is one of those stories that you never want to relate to. I know people who have been through this, and I have hurt for them. My husband has been my true love and soulmate for more than 20 years and father to our three sons and I don't like to imagine life without him. The opening chapter of this story was very difficult to read because I never ever want to be in Liz's shoes. I thought I was a glutton for punishment when I first started reading, and then I was able to switch off my brain and instead of trying to take this story personally, I looked at it from Liz's view, not my own, and was truly able to enjoy and feel her touching journey.

What I appreciated was that there was no quick fix, no insta-love. Liz's journey through the five stages of grief were real and honest. The one thing going for her that I don't imagine would be the case for everyone in her situation was that she was still able to be a stay-at-home mom and didn't have to work once her husband died, and didn't have to work in the foreseeable future. That would have added a whole other layer to her stress and drama, and I can see why the author didn't add that aspect into the story (but not having to work was the one less realistic aspect for me). Instead we focus on her grieving, her single motherhood, her transition. Now Liz is not perfect, and neither are her kids. She cries a lot. Her kids misbehave. She's a mess. But we see her grow and develop and move forward, even as she takes steps backward along the way. Her transition may not be the same for every other woman in her position, but I liked her, liked how the author portrayed her, and could feel her struggle, her dread, her hope, her fear, her wrestling, her resolve, and her renewal.

And along the way comes Ben. Perhaps the wrong timing, or perhaps the perfect timing. Because we get to see how Liz's life changes with Ben's addition. Ben, who may be a little too perfect, or may only be perfect for Liz and where her life is. Any other man may not have been able to handle her and all her baggage. But Ben not only handled it, but embraced it and loved it inspite of the difficulty. Because their relationship was not easy or light. It was emotional and riddled with doubt and self-sabbotage. But patience is the name of the game. Patience and persistence. Ben knew what he wanted and was willing to wait for it. Ben truly is a gem. I loved the interactions between Ben and Liz, their friendship and camaraderie and blossoming love, their clear chemistry, Ben's love for her children, the way their families interacted, the children's hearts and role in everything, and the respect that is always paid to Grady.

The patient journey of hope, love, and second chances was taken on beautifully by this author. I was touched and moved by Liz's struggle as well as the barriers to Ben getting what he wished for. I felt like everything was laid bare, no stone unturned, no forward movement rushed. There were times when my heart hurt for Liz or for Ben for entirely different reasons. But in the end, I believed in their chance at love and a future and was rooting for them the entire time, even as I grieved right alongside Liz for losing Grady. I will say that the end wraps up beautifully, though there was some wording that made me feel a bit sad for Ben that Liz's words portrayed him still as a bit of an outsider and I felt like that cheated Ben's relationship with Liz and the kids. But overall, a beautiful, thoughtful, and touching love story.


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