Title: One True Loves (2016)
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Chick Lit
Extent: 352 pages
Release Date: June 7, 2016
In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.
On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.
Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.
That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.
I’ve been curious about One True Loves ever since I discovered what it was about, well, two true loves. My past experience with Taylor Jenkins Reid was with Forever, Interrupted, which is a heartbreaking account of a woman who lost her husband soon after they wedded, and my expectations for this one were a bit higher given that it has a higher Goodreads rating. Are they met? Well…
This story is about Emma, who met her ‘One’, Jesse, when she was in high school and never once doubted that they were meant to be together — at least until he disappeared on a helicopter over the Pacific on their first wedding anniversary. Three years later, Emma has started a new life and is now engaged to another man, Sam, when Jesse comes back. One True Loves seeks to answer: Who is Emma’s true love? Can you truly love more than one person? And what does ‘true love’ even mean, anyway?
“There is other love out there for me. But it’s different. It isn’t this. It isn’t this exact love. It’s better and it’s worse. But I guess that’s sort of the point of love between two people—you can’t re-create it. Every time you love, everyone you love, the love is different. You’re different in it.”
From my star rating, you could guess that I didn’t love this book. I think a lot of it has to do with characterisation — I didn’t like any of the three main characters (Emma, Jesse, Sam) and wasn’t swayed one way or another in terms of the end-game couple. Both Jesse and Sam felt quite one-dimensional to me, kind of like mass-produced love interests that I’ve read about before. Jesse came across as too happy and… well-adjusted, given what he went through, and Sam was just too perfect that he bored me.
Emma’s character, meanwhile, just didn’t sit very well with me. She was in an impossible situation, yes, but there was a bit too much of bed-hopping and back-and-forth going around that I couldn’t take it seriously. One moment she was in Sam’s arms, and literally the next day she’d be sleeping with Jesse. Maybe I’m just being too uptight or something, but I found this very irritating.
I also didn’t like, unfortunately, how easily it all came together in the end for Emma. Everything just fell into place, every party involved understood and readily accepted her decision without much struggle, and it was… too neat? And I think this would be an unpopular opinion, but I kind of feel like [spoiler] Emma would benefit from being alone for a while, just because Jesse’s return was such a shock that it sent everything careening crazily [/spoiler]. Admittedly, though, I’m a huge advocate of this kind of ending for many other love triangles, so take what you will, haha.
“When you love someone, it seeps out of everything you do, it bleeds into everything you say, it becomes so ever-present, that eventually it becomes ordinary to hear, no matter how extraordinary it is to feel.”
There’s a need for suspension of disbelief if you want to enjoy this book to the fullest. What had happened to Jesse was… well, unrealistic, impossible, and there were lots of things that I think should happen but were never mentioned in the book, like maybe PTSD counseling sessions. Now, to be fair to Reid, she did mention that her intention was to focus on Emma’s emotions instead of Jesse or anyone else, but I do think that a bit more research, a bit more exploration, would have injected this story with more realism.
Despite its flaws, however, One True Loves is a bit of an emotional journey and Reid definitely has a talent for delivering the readers straight into her characters’ world. It was incredibly easy to put myself in Emma’s shoes and imagine this impossibly devastating scenario happening to me, and while I didn’t love her, I sympathised with her a lot.
“I don’t think that true love means your only love. I think true love means loving truly. Loving purely. Loving wholly. Maybe, if you’re the kind of person who’s willing to give all of yourself, the kind of person who is willing to love with all of your heart even though you have experienced just how much it can hurt, maybe you get lots of true loves then. Maybe that’s the gift you get for being brave.”
Unsurprisingly, there are lots of lessons to be learned here, and I enjoyed many of the messages Reid seems to be saying, particularly that just because a relationship ends doesn’t mean that it fails, and that there are more than one person for you in this whole world. I do think the execution could’ve been much more elegant, but this was a book that packs a punch. Recommended — if only for that experience of putting yourself in the heroine’s shoes and imagining your life with this scenario.