Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I’ve recently been reading Siobhan Davis’s bully romance series, Rydeville High. Every book is a twisted tale of romance, greed, and star-crossed lovers set in high school. It’s oftentimes difficult to read because everything bad seems rained down upon the head of the main heroine. Davis’s newest book, Holding On to Forever, has much the same feel. Co-written with S. B. Alexander, this is an emotionally gripping romance of two college-aged students, Adam and Emily. Adam meets Emily one night when he sells her friend, Zach, drugs, namely Molly. See, Adam, the Cypress University quarterback, must sell drugs to make enough fast money to care for his mother and sister who has a debilitating disease. To be fair, he doesn’t want to sell drugs, but it allows him to make quite a bit of money quickly. On meeting Emily for the first time, there is an instant connection.
Emily is Adam’s head coach’s daughter, unbeknownst to him at their first meeting. Her past holds a terrible secret that causes her to use drugs to anesthetize herself against the pain of it. An unloving, opportunistic mother, an absentee father, and her secret conspire to derail her life through her use of drugs. Until she meets Adam. Even though Adam realizes quickly that he is inadvertently providing the drugs for Emily, he works to help save her from herself while buoying her up to save herself. In the end, he wants to love her enough for her to stop using it. Will Adam save her, will he save himself and his family, or will they break, unable to move beyond life’s trials? Those are the questions of Davis and Alexander’s book. And they are important ones.
Okay, I have to admit that I was intrigued by this story from the reading of its blurb. While I don’t profess to be a prolific romance reader, I have read quite a few romances in the past couple of years to warrant having a good understanding of typical romance stories. And this one, as far as I can tell, is different. A drug user falling in love with her dealer? Obviously, from my summary, it is much more nuanced than that. However, it is different, and you can’t help but be interested in the story.
Let me also say that there is MUCH more to this book than this basic storyline. Through this story, Davis and Alexander are pointing to issues of poverty, abuse in all its forms, date rape, drug abuse, and broken families. This book is loaded with story. Each character seems to represent a social issue. In my opinion, it’s the interesting, but also problematic part of this book. I think that there were so many different parts to the story that it sometimes undermines other aspects of the story. I hate to go into any detail because I don’t want to give away the book’s secrets. Yet, I can’t help but suggest that some of the storylines could have been revised out. Emily and Adam’s story alone is enough for this book.
In terms of its characters, Adam is a saint by most measures. That’s actually difficult to write given his role in the story. But it’s clear from the start that he feels responsible for providing for his family, and he will do anything to fulfill that role. With that, there are actions he takes in the book that are morally ambiguous. Necessary for survival, but worrisome. That he knows they are morally problematic AND compromise Emily’s sobriety makes him the saint. He can be headstrong which is his downfall. He fails to include his roommate/best friend in his troubles, causing problems for himself. In trying to fix his family’s problem on his own, his actions seem short-sighted in the context of his future. Yet, he loves Emily deeply. With the exception of one moment in the story of their relationship, he is protective and adores her. The love she has failed to receive from her home life comes from him, and it becomes some of the impetus for her eventual healing. Adam is strong, insightful, and a foundation for Emily to build her hopes on.
Now, Emily is a difficult one to assess. Her character alone represents many of the social issues of the story. Encompassed in her is the problem, and, quite frankly, the solution. It, however, takes her most of the story to get there. Like any addict, she self-sabotages throughout much of the book. I think it’s important to read this type of heroine, though. Most characters in modern romance become their own biggest issue. And Davis and Alexander seem to be pointing to this trait of the genre. It really doesn’t matter that she’s an addict. She could be an assistant to a billionaire or the billionaire herself and still make poor choices in a romantic relationship. What Davis and Alexander have done, though, is point us to a social ill: addiction. They could have created a heroine who self-sabotages in more traditional romance genre ways, but they didn’t. They took the opportunity in this book to illustrate for us the difficulties of addiction and its impact on families. This is the power of this book. It is more than a romance; Holding On to Forever is a story of healing and becoming who you are meant to be.
This book can be difficult to read. It handles drug addiction, abuse, poverty, and broken families in some ugly ways. However, the ending has a huge payoff. You feel as though you’ve lived a long life when you finish this book, but it’s so fulfilling because the growth of the characters is tremendous. Holding On to Forever is a book that all of us should read, as it challenges what it means to find and fall in love in the midst of trauma.
In love and romance,