Book Review: One True Loves – Taylor Jenkins Reid


Title: One True Loves (2016)
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Chick Lit
Extent: 352 pages
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads Description

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.

36 thoughts on “Book Review: One True Loves – Taylor Jenkins Reid

  1. The bed-hopping and back n forth stuff is what puts me off most of the contemporary romances that have love triangles. However, the premise of this book does make Emma’s dilemma feel legit and truly difficult. I mean, this kind of reminds me of a couple of TV shows (and I think even inspired by a true story) I have watched where a newly-wed girl’s husband is presumed dead while serving in the Armed forces, but is later found to have survived and recuperating. Meanwhile, she is engaged/married to another person.

    I am not usually a fan of triangles, but I love these sort of plots lol.. I mean, it is actually a difficult situation to be in and not some lousy, silly issue magnified ten-folds by the guy/girl.

    Too bad the three characters in this book weren’t written that well… !


    • Yeah – like, to be fair, I don’t really mind bed-hopping but as soon as it veers into cheating territory I just feel very iffy about it. It crosses a very strict personal line of mine and it really turns me off a character. From the reviews I’ve read, though, some people didn’t mind that at all and even understood it, so I think it just depends on how you feel about it within context.

      I’m reaaaally disappointed because after reading this and Forever, Interrupted, I have a feeling that TJR’s writing isn’t really my style. She writes such amazing, unique, difficult themes though – I can’t help but to want to read her books, but I always end up underwhelmed. 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yea same here, cheating puts me off too.. and the situation must be really all messed up for me to feel bad for the characters or understand their choices (but I rarely see it in books)
        Aww, sorry, it must be disappointing when you really want to like an author’s works but something doesn’t click!


  2. What a fantastic review, Reg, thank you for sharing this. I heard about this book before, I think it was on CW’s blog, and it made me curious about it, but…well as you know, endless TBRs and all, I didn’t get to it just yet. Too bad you couldn’t really love the characters, and I understand you a bit, I think this back and forth would annoy me a little bit. I do love the quotes of the book you put there, though, they are so beautiful! 🙂


  3. Excellent review, I’m curious about this one, I don’t necessarily think there’s just one person for everyone, so I agree with the lessons learned XD

    Sorry you didn’t enjoy it more 😦


  4. Great review Reg, I hadn’t heard of this book before but it was definitely interesting reading your thoughts on it. It’s a shame the characters weren’t as well developed, I agree with you that the fact that Jesse felt too well adjusted after his time missing would have felt too unrealistic for me, and the bed hopping and back and forth would have annoyed me a little too much. Then again I’ve never really been a fan of love triangles so I don’t feel I could have really invested myself in this one.
    Still it sounds like an interesting premise, and I guess this book could have been really good as well if the characters were ones you could have connected with more.
    Also, and I may be thinking too much into this, but I thought that if someone went missing without a body it was seven years before they could be declared legally dead and for their spouses to be able to marry again. Would Emma have even been allowed to get engaged and married again if her husband had only been missing three years?
    Probably over thinking it but…just a thought.


    • Thanks, Beth! Yeah, I just feel like after like three years being stranded he’d be… I dunno, a little traumatised? But maybe he’s a really strong person mentally. 😛

      The book does have a very, very good premise – it’s just the execution that fails a bit for me. TJR has the BEST ideas ever that really appeal to me, but her narrators don’t always make it easy for me to love them.

      Now I didn’t know about that law, and that’s a really good point! I assume that’ll be different from place to place… It’s true though that an engagement isn’t really legally binding and Sam and Emma have yet to actually tie the not. Maybe that’s where the loophole is.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s all right, and yeah I feel like no matter how well-adjusted you are you’d end up being a little traumatised at least, especially after three years right?!
        See that’s a shame, but I guess there are some books with good premises that fail in the execution. Maybe one day you’ll find a story of hers you do love as much as the premise.
        I read it another book ages ago and for some reason it’s just something that stayed in my brain. I know that’s the law in US and England. Could be different everywhere else, or Sam and Emma could have just planned to have a long engagement, who knows?


        • Yeees. I mean, the things he’s seen and been through… like at least go to therapy or something to make sure you’re actually OK, please. But I guess that’s not the point of the book, haha.

          Oooh, yeah, a long engagement would make sense. It’s actually been three months since I read the book (LOL @ me publishing reviews like super late) so I don’t really remember if that was part of the plan. 🤔

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’d need it. No matter how much of a loner I can be after three years I’d need therapy, or someone to talk to at the very least. I guess not but I guess it would have been good to mention it at least in passing or something.
            Possibly, then again if they didn’t mention anything about Jesse needing or going to therapy I’m thinking it’s unlikely it was mentioned how long the engagement was going to last!


  5. Fab review! I had only seen one review for this book, and I was wondering if I’d enjoy it, as the blurb promises a nice and interesting story. I guess your points about the characters are what I was dreading, also I read the spoilery bit and I wonder why women in books never try that option!


    • Thanks, Donna! Yeah, I know – I feel like there’s this sense that a happy ending includes a relationship (this goes for a lot of genre fiction), so if she “ends up” alone, the ending is less happy somewhat? I think it’s still a good book because it did make me think (and imagine what it would be like because please god no). 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great review Reg! As you know, I am a big advocate and lover of TJR’s books but, I respect your perspective and I loved your review regardless.

    I completely see your point about the cheating thing. I don’t condone cheating (and I’m not saying you implied so!) but I think I just found myself REALLY connecting with Emma’s emotional journey and all the ups and downs. I think that’s 90% of the reason why I love TJR’s books. I find it really easy to understand her characters and I connect with them, probably making me more emotionally invested in the story. More so, I am REALLY interested in the emotional/moral questions that TJR poses in each book. I am a sucker for mundane love stories. 😶

    Agree with you regarding the PTSD stuff – I think it was mentioned VERY briefly(?!) but I wish it was explored more too.


    • Thanks, CW! I actually really like them too as a whole – I think she explores some very difficult themes that always put the protagonist between a rock and a hard place, and it’s just… kind of an emotional journey every time?

      The cheating thing is a bit weird for me. On one hand, this one has TONS of shades of grey and I can kind of understand why Emma does the things that she does, but on the other hand, if I were Sam I don’t think I’d take that very lightly. I’m not him, obviously, so I can’t “govern” his decisions like that, but it was very easy to put myself in his shoes and frown upon the situation!

      RE: PTSD stuff – it probably was! Tbh I’m not a very detailed reader so I could’ve missed some things easily. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

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