I have been given an advanced reader copy (ARC) by Buoni Amici Press in exchange for an honest review.
How We Fall
By Melissa Toppen
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age Category: New Adult
It’s not always about how we fall- it’s about where we end up once we land.
I remember the very first time I laid eyes on Cole Lincoln. It still feels like yesterday when he stumbled into my life with his messy brown hair and dark eyes. Even though I was only ten years old at the time, I knew right then and there that he was going to change everything.
From that point on Cole and I were always together—inseparable—and I naively believed we’d be best friends forever. But forever didn’t last nearly as long as I expected.
We grew up and grew apart, life driving the distance between us, but my love for Cole never faltered. Even long after he moved away, leaving me and our little town behind, I still carried a piece of him with me every single day. Because Cole wasn’t just my childhood best friend- the boy who knew me better than anyone else in the whole world. He was also my first love- a part of my very core.
When a tragic death brings us face to face again after six years, every single memory comes rushing to the surface. Only this is not the boy I fell in love with all those years ago. The man before me is hardened, intimidating, and so damn sexy I practically melt when those dark eyes meet mine for the first time in six years.
And like the first time he walked into my life, I know with complete certainty that everything is about to change.
Often, we read about reviews of romance books as ‘cheesy’ stories that make us cringe and irate. I always hate it when romance falls into that branding because it’s not always ‘cheesy’. Emotions, in general, are scoffed at because we live in a patriarchal world where they are treated as weakness. And when romance novels are rounded down to being cheesy, it really sparks the Anger inside me.
How We Fall by Melissa Toppen, sadly, falls into the cheesy category. I hate to say this but here’s why:
Toppen’s How We Fall starts off promising. Childhood friends Cole and Mel always teetered between friends and Something More. They never crossed the line when they were teens because of course, they don’t. Only after the death of their close friend, many years after, did they reconnect and found the courage to tip over the Something More field.
Before I launch into the plot analysis, I’d like to point out that when they did reconnect, Mel was in a relationship with another guy. I feel like it is too convenient that her relationship with Nate, the boyfriend, was ‘unhappy’, she’s always the second choice from his job, that ultimately made their breakup and her reconnecting with Cole conveniently easy.
In fact, the crises in the story, while many and good, conveniently solve themselves for the couple without any agency from them. The story reads like a huge Deus ex machina-propelled narrative. I am really sad about the wasted potential of this book.
I understand how Toppen might have loved Mel and Cole. After all, it shows how much the characters love each other so much. (By how they declare their love for one another every single time. It’s too much! There is a thing called too much.) This is the love conquers all story that might read well technically (in terms of grammar and syntax) but the plot really needs more work.
We don’t just need a couple in love with each other. We need crises and ritual deaths and reconciliations that will mean significantly for the characters, both as individuals and as a couple. Romance is not just for feelings. Romance can deliver the edge most good stories have so please don’t do it this kind of disservice.