In this article, we will discuss “Rival” by Penelope Douglas, a book from the Falling Away series. Published by NAL, Penguin on August 26, 2014, this New Adult Romance spans 366 pages and is available in eARC format. Let’s dive into the tale of two estranged teenagers playing a dangerous game that blurs the lines between love and war.
A Second Chance:
After spending two years apart while Fallon attended boarding school, Madoc and Fallon are reunited. During their time together in the past, Fallon used to alternate between cutting Madoc down during the day and leaving her door open for him at night. Now that Fallon is back, Madoc senses that the old flame still burns between them, despite his attempts to act superior. Determined not to be intimidated or pushed aside, Fallon is ready to face Madoc head-on. She is willing to engage in this battle of wills, as long as she keeps her guard up and hides how deeply Madoc affects her.
I had high hopes for a captivating hate-to-love story, but “Rival” failed to deliver. This was my first encounter with Penelope Douglas’s work, and if her other books are similar to this one, she may not be the right author for me. The book was filled with an overwhelming amount of plot elements that I found hard to digest. [^1^]
The story’s structure made it challenging for me to connect with the romance. The author deliberately withheld crucial information about Fallon and Madoc’s past, revealing it in small fragments throughout the book. However, this approach did not engross me. To pull off this kind of storytelling, an author needs finesse and skill, which I felt was lacking in this case. [^2^]
The pacing of Madoc and Fallon’s relationship hindered my ability to believe in their love story or invest in them as a couple. At no point did I root for them or feel any emotional connection. Their relationship dynamics resembled a rollercoaster ride – up and down, repeatedly. While some back and forth can enhance the story, in this book, it felt forced and out of place. Furthermore, the narrative relied heavily on telling the reader about their feelings rather than showing them, likely due to the hidden past. Consequently, I failed to sense their chemistry or any real connection between them. [^3^]
The story’s absurdity reached its peak in the concluding chapters. The twists and turns became increasingly ludicrous. [^4^] I was left dumbfounded by the revelation that Madoc’s best friend filmed a sex tape with Fallon’s mom to coerce her into signing divorce papers. Meanwhile, throughout the book, Madoc and Fallon themselves engaged in a passionate physical relationship, eventually culminating in marriage. The level of absurdity in these plot developments was off-the-charts. [^5^]
The final blow came from Douglas’s writing style. Even when a story is convoluted, I often find solace in the author’s writing, but unfortunately, this was not the case here. [^6^]
Overall, I rate “Rival” with only 1 star.
I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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