I wasn't always in love with Colton Calloway; I was in love with his younger brother, Kyle, first. Kyle was my first one true love, my first in every way.
Then, one stormy August night, he died, and the person I was died with him.
Colton didn't teach me how to live. He didn't heal the pain. He didn't make it okay. He taught me how to hurt, how to not be okay, and, eventually, how to let go.
I'm a bit twisted up inside as I think about what to write. There are things here that worked superbly well, others that left me wanting, and moments where I was simply caught up in the flow and easy rhythm of the writing. It was a bit of a ride until the novel chose its path and wound seamlessly through its base story arc, where the meat of this novel dwells. Its beating heart is its characters, Colt and Nell.
There seems to be this concept circulating through the world of ConFic that would have the reader believe that pain is a fixable state, one that can be easily remedied by the intervention of someone else. I loathe this concept's baser core: the suggestion that self-control and self-reliance are beyond our ability to manage. Pain is not a fixable state, nor is it malleable or modifiable by the presence of another. It is a transitory state, one guided or left uncontained by the bearer of that pain. What Falling Into You offers is an alternate, more feasible and tangible reality. Love can help us want to be better, it can provide the impetus for change, it cannot, however, fix us. What love should do is allow us to feel our agony without judgement, ridicule or torment; it should allow for breath and space, for moments of selfishness and defeat. Most importantly, it should provide the foundation from which we find our footing. This novel expresses those ideas, without ever suggesting its characters were led to their absolution by another. The work was theirs alone and, shockingly, they managed to do it all by themselves. Go figure. So, kudos to Ms. Wilder for allowing her characters to chose their own path. Well done.
I loved that Colton was not the traditional bad boy I'm growing weary of reading. He wasn't a womanizer, wasn't an asshole, he was rough but kind, calloused but gentle. This was a soulful man with layers and depth of pain, which was neither an excuse, nor a crutch. He was comfortable in his agony, never using as a weapon to injure or main. Was he a brute in some respects? Yes. Did he regret and repent? Yes. He was, in short, one of the best drawn male characters I have read in a long while. There was no vacillation, no boy-man conflict. Trust me, Colton was all man, all the time, and I applaud Jasinda Wilder for her execution.
I also quite enjoyed (if I can say that given the intensity of the novel) Nell's inner torment. Her conflict and self-blame rang true for someone in her particular situation. She agonized, not for attention, but due to true and honest anguish. This conflict remained present, even through the evolution of her relationship with Colton, which was an important element to maintain. We do not simply "get over" something because we're presented with something new. Oftentimes, this creates additional inner turmoil and I appreciate that Jacinda Wilder allowed Nell to struggle with her choices and the resulting feelings.
While I wished there was a stronger ending, something beyond what was offered, I appreciated that the HEA was tinged with leftover pain. This is one of the few stand alone books that I'd relish a part two. It just seems as though there's something missing. I want to see how this couple copes with what happened in the end. I want very much to understand the full breadth of damage. Will I be content if this is truly all there is? Yes, I guess so, ultimately I'll have to be. It's not like I'm angry or anything. I just wanted, hoped for, more.
I also wish that less time was spent fleshing out Kyle and Nell's relationship and, instead, it was condensed, focusing more on the poingnancy of those times rather than their length. It's almost as though that scene with the tree was somehow diminished by the stuff that came before. I kept thinking how much better it would have been to have a hint of that love and then, bam!, the tree scene. That, and my wish for more of an ending, were my only chief complaints and warranted only a half star demerit.
Lastly, and this is not an opinion, rather an observation. My best friend of a gazillion years was a cutter for a large chunk of it. Many of the things Nell said/did, didn't ring true for me based on my experiences. However, as I am not a cutter, I don't feel it's my place to judge. I only know that my friend would never have cut anywhere in my vicinity, as this is a deeply private ritual. It's also very secretive. Enough said. Again, just observation, nothing more.