Dear L H. Cosway:
After the refreshing Painted Faces, I was eager to try another Cosway book and this one had an intriguing premise. Could you forgive the person who tormented you and fall in love with him? Lana and Sasha are best friends and at first this is not a problem but as the two grow closer, Robert, Sasha’s twin, begins to treat Lana cruelly. He called her names, made fun of her appearance and once, knowing she had a crush on him, pretended that he liked her only to whisper “You, Lana, are the ugliest girl I have ever laid my eyes on.” He did other, crueler things to her. And then Sasha and Robert moved away.
Robert and Lana reconnect when she is a grad student and he is working at his father’s PR firm. Lana is staying at Sasha’s flat and Robert has been kicked out of his own apartment by his girlfriend. (This detail didn’t ring true as it was his apartment but nonetheless the two have to be brought together). Probably the best part of the book was the rehabilitation of Robert’s character and the steamy love scenes.
After his breakup with the cheating Kara, Robert begins to pursue Lana earnestly (often invading her privacy like taking pictures of her constantly including while she is sleeping), apologizing for his past misdeeds, and offering a romantic olive branch in return. Robert was Lana’s first crush and she hadn’t ever really gotten over him. There’s a cute use of Facebook as Robert friends Lana and she rejects him initially. Later they converse and he says “Are you going to accept my friendship?” and we know he’s talking about more than the social network. Robert is an intense young man; he hates and loves in equal powerful measure.
The scenes in which Robert mistreats Lana are narrated as backstory by Lana and thus have less effect than the real time events of the characters so when the tables turn and Lana begins to treat Robert cruelly. Early in the story Lana was a sympathetic creature but her passivity throughout the story became frustrating. I wanted her to take agency and either pursue her own happiness or at least take control of the relationship she was in but she allows herself to be influenced by others around her all too often. The last third of the book features Lana having a difficult time managing an illness that I felt was within her control if she acted more responsibly. Worse, Lana blames Robert for being too addictive and doesn’t take ownership of her own behavior. Ending the story so close on the heels of Lana’s stupidity was utterly frustrating.
Sasha, the sister, who was struggling with her own sexuality was a really intriguing character in the story and I liked her the most but maybe that’s because I only got her in small dosages.
This was another book in which I didn’t quite grasp what the author was trying to do. Robert was cruel and that cruelty eventually begat more cruelty. In the blurb, it says “When fear takes over, we use cruelty as a mask. Robert and Lana’s story will see their masks slip away as the love they felt on the inside shows its true face.” But Robert’s cruelty came from a place of thwarted want and Lana’s cruelty came from the desire to offload the repercussions of her own bad actions on someone else. Probably up to the 60% mark, this book was a C+ but Lana’s behavior in the last third tipped it into the C- region.
I do enjoy the authorial voice and would definitely try another Cosway. This one just didn’t work for me. C-