In book review review

REVIEW: Sinful Like Us

Title: Sinful Like Us
Author: Krista and Becca Ritchie
Genre(s):  New Adult, Romance
Release: September 10th, 2019
Rating: ✭✭✭/5

"I know I’m not a prince. I’m not a king. But I’d treat Jane like she should be treated. 
She’s my princess, my angel, and my queen. Every morning and every night. 
I’d kneel at her feet and stand by her side."

I'm going to be very real and say that I have been almost dreading to post this review. The response towards this series has not been overwhelmingly positive, and fans of this series have been incredibly divisive when it comes to liking or not liking this particular instalment, hence why I've put off writing this review in the first place. But, I’m finally sitting down and gathering my thoughts, so strap in tight for this somewhat lengthy piece!

What is this book about?
Sinful Like Us continues Thatcher and Jane's relationship. American princess Jane is now dating her (ex-) bodyguard Thatcher. After being stuck with Thatcher's nemesis as her new protection, Jane has to navigate her newfound feelings while facing more outside obstacles. Can her and Thatcher's relationship survive outside the honeymoon phase?

“All this time, I thought love is a compromise of equals. 50-50. But it’s not…is it?” 
She leans back and gives me another pointed look. 
“With the right person, they’ll ensure you’re always whole.”

What did I think of Sinful Like Us?
Purely judging this from a romance perspective, I objectively really enjoyed this duet. It's no secret that the earlier instalments in this series (the ones focusing on the first couple) haven't been my favorites. I still enjoyed them enough to continue reading, but this particular couple is more up my street. 

Jane and Thatcher's relationship has been my favorite in the series so far, and this book did wonderful things for their characters. I especially really liked Jane's development: going from a woman who is afraid of emotional attachment, to someone who is confident enough to voice her love. I adored the little insights we got into their relationship, as well as their daily interactions. I might be biased, but I could honestly read about their relationship all day. I also really enjoyed how angsty this book was. As someone who likes tropey angst and broody protective NA heroes, this was right up my alley.

Now comes the part where this book loses a star. A large part of the Like Us books are focused on the side characters and setting up potential future relationships, which in the earlier books wasn't a bad thing per sé because it gathered enthusiasm for the rest of the universe. However, in this book, I found that it really took attention away from the main couple in a negative way. A large part of the book was dedicated to Farrow and Maximoff's wedding, which will ironically also be the focus of the entire next book, as well as giving hints and setting up interactions with other couples. By creating such an extensive universe, the writing feels kind of all over the place, since the authors try their best to get everyone involved, which, let's face it, just reads a little messily. Additionally, there were three chapters from a seemingly random POV, that, looking at the overall build-up of the series, essentially made no sense because the character in question wasn't really part of the main story. These chapters only existed to set up a side character's relationship. All the random unnecessary interactions and character decisions made this book feel disengaged from the previous one (which is a feat because there are only three days between the ending of Tangled Like Us and the beginning of this book.) How this miniature timeline jump could have such major repercussions and inconsistencies in character remains a mystery. 

Writing-wise, I also feel like one of the major flaws of this book (or series as a whole) is the recycling of many tropes and plot-lines, as well as including some very lengthy (and contrived) dramatics. As an example: this book sees Jane and Thatcher break up and make up within the span of a few hours (which served no purpose at all aside from lengthening the book). It also stretches the "intruder" storyline, which we've also seen in the very first instalment, as well as in the original Addicted series. I don't want to judge too harshly, since romance books aren't generally read for their plot, yet I do believe you're allowed to expect at least some variation in terms of story. 

There are also some specific plot-related issues that I had with the book. The first being the apparent aversion towards adoption. The authors' earlier series introduces the concept of surrogacy, which back then, was sweet and special and fit within the story. This book, however, shows how Jane is willing to sacrifice her first pregnancy to be a surrogate for her cousin and his boyfriend (which essentially means she'll be her nephew's biological mother? Uhm...?) This just struck me as odd, especially since adoption is a valid option in this case. 

Another minor comment: I also didn't fully understand the scene where Jane had to walk in on Maximoff and Farrow being intimate. I think this was supposed to be funny, but locking her into the room  just ended up giving the reader some intense second-hand embarrassment, and dare I say even made me very uncomfortable. 

Now, to address the big polyamorous elephant in the room. I started reading this series the day it dropped three years ago, and because these writers do so much to include their side-characters and secondary ships, I took an immediate like to Akara and Sulli. I've devoted a lot of time and energy to this pairing. From promoting it on Twitter, to making bookish graphics: I was very much anticipating their book. Whereas earlier books, and the writers too, confirmed these two to be a definite future ship, Sinful Like Us drops a very unexpected bomb: Sulli will be in a polyamorous relationship with both Akara and Banks. 

Now, I'm not averse towards polyamorous relationships, as I've never read any romances that specifically include this trope. However, my first reaction to this news was anger and hurt; I'd been eagerly anticipating their book for almost three years. This felt like a betrayal of some sort. After shoving my feelings to the side, I went back in to paint a clearer picture, yet I remained a little disappointed. Reading Sulli and Banks' scenes feels very inorganic, they essentially go from not interacting in Alpha's Like Us, to Banks calling her a nickname that was originally designed for Akara in Sinful. This, you can imagine, does nothing to make the pre-existing 'Kitsulli' fanbase warm up to the idea of Sulli and Banks. Then there are some chapters where Banks and Akara have private conversations about Sulli and her love life, which, I dare say, is inconsistent with Akara's pre-established protective nature as seen in Damaged Like Us as well as Alpha's Like Us. In short, I don't feel like there is a well-developed basis for this polyamorous relationship, and at this point it just feels like the writers pulled a name out of their hats and added Banks to the mix to 'spice' up their  (otherwise 'vanilla') relationship.

Though rightfully angry, I'm not someone who feels the urge to mingle in this particular fight, and because I did enjoy the series as a whole, I have decided to continue reading Like Us, albeit a little less investedly. I'm prepared to see what future books bring to the table, and I'm intrigued to see if they manage to turn Akara/Sulli/Banks into something I'll find myself enjoying after all. For now, this book's four star rating largely derives from my enjoyment of Jane and Thatcher's relationship, which has admittedly been overshined by the polyamorous news hidden within this book.

I hope this review managed to convey my feelings on the matter, and I'm tentatively intrigued to see what Headstrong Like Us will bring to the table, even though I'm not a huge fan of the pairing itself. For now, these are my thoughts on the situation. 

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