By now y’all may know that I love the marriage in trouble trope. There is something so appealing to me about reading about couples who have to figure out their shit and decide to make their marriage work. I haven’t read Bailey in quite some time, I’ve kind of moved away from reading and enjoying her brand of possessive alpha heroes. But with this trope, I was never not going to read Love Her or Lose Her.
I ended up having incredibly mixed feelings about this book. I will start with the good. In the front matter, Bailey mentions that she drew some inspiration for this book from Ester Perel’s podcast, Where Should We Begin. Perel is a couples therapist who talks to couples about their, usually troubled relationships. I have only listened to a few but the ones I have are raw and emotional and at times incredibly hard to listen to. It is like a peek in to the worst and saddest parts of these couples. That is how I felt when reading the parts of this book. When Rosie and Dom have internal thoughts about their relationship, it is sad and it feels sad to read. Rosie and Dom lost their way a while back and can no longer communicate outside of the bedroom. The conversations they have and that conflict really worked for me. I just wanted to shake them both though and say “Just talk to each other!”
What didn’t work (imagine me doing a very long sigh)
Rosie and Dom have an intense physical connection. Bailey talks about it SO much. Like I get it, they want to fuck and they are good at it. Their chemistry is so strong that their therapist even comments on it. It was weird and at times it felt like it was telling me more than she was showing me.
It was clear that Bailey wrote these characters to be very into traditional gender roles. The term masculine is used three times, feminine four times. Dom is written in a way that he has very clear ideals of what makes and defines a man and provider. I think these were used as ways to help show growth in him, but I was unconvinced that by the end of the book he had really changed on any of those things. Tied into that was Dom’s possessiveness. I am not a fan of possessive heroes. They generally do not work for me. By the end of the book, Dom’s possessiveness is toned down but I also remained unconvinced that he saw Rosie as a full person and not just a thing that needed to protect and provide for.
There are secondary characters, Bethany & Wes, that Bailey is setting up for their HEA in the next book. But all they do is snipe at each other. No real reason given except Bethany doesn’t like Wes as soon as she meets him. Wes likes to needle her by calling her things that allude to her being an ice princess. I hate this characterization every time I see it and it is no different here
I can’t not mention that the cover depicts two people of color and I was curious to see how the characters were represented. My personal identity is different than the characters in the book and I fully recognize that there is no one “right” way to be any given identity. These characters, particularly Dominic, didn’t really present in many ways as being from Latinx/African American backgrounds. Rosie does talk about her Argentinian mother and cooking a fair amount but that is it. There are a couple of references to her hair and the product she uses. Dom smokes Newports. Was this part of the coding of him as being a person of color? I don’t know but it was weird to me and a bit stereotypical. I’ve probably read a thousand romance novels and not once do I recall a cigarette brand being named.
The whole smoking Newports thing sent me down a rabbit hole of research in to what types of cigarettes people smoke. There is evidence to support the fact that a large percentage of African Americans smokers use menthol cigarettes. My research including reading articles from the CDC about how cigarette makers target Hispanics and African Americans with advertising and such.
I had conflicted feelings about some of the little things that appeared to used to code Rosie and Dom as people of color and wondering if mentions of hair type, food and cigarettes is enough? I don’t have the answers but I will definitely keep asking the questions.
Alright now back on track and talking about the actual plot of the book!
The final thing that made me sigh about this book. Dominic is the one that creates the big conflict at the end of the book.
Reader, I was mad. I am of the thought that the person that does the big bad thing or creates the awful misunderstanding needs to be the one to fix it. Not the other party. Not even when they are a married couple working to repair their broken marriage.
Overall this read was an okay read. The marriage was definitely in trouble and depicted incredibly well. With a different and less masculine and possessive hero I probably would have absolutely LOVED this book. I didn’t find the secondary characters to be likable. I felt like Rosie and Dom lacked dimension in regards to their depiction as people of color. If the broken marriage part hadn’t been so strong, I probably would have DNF’ed the book. I was compelled enough to finish the book but I won’t be reading any more in this series.