Two and a half-ish stars
I really like this series and this last book of the series really bummed me out. As in all the books, the struggles that the main characters deal with are relevant, realistic, and sometimes taboo. I’ve been impressed with the care and attention in which the author handles difficult situations, often calling out the thing that no one wants to talk about. So when I finished this book it took me a while to figure out what bothered me so much about the story. What it boiled down to is that I am not completely convinced of their happy ending.
Here’s where the discussion gets spoiler-y. Continue at your own risk.
While the book delivered in emotional intensity, Sophie’s stagnated personal growth and diminishing coping skills concerned me. In the book she loses her professional ambition, isolates herself from her support network, soothes herself with junk food and drugs, and seems to need to receive more pain in her and Neil’s scenes than in the previous books.
In The Ex, Sophie is working with her friend running a fashion magazine. Previously, when she wasn’t pulling her weight at work her friend called her on it. In this book, she has convinced herself that she is just in the way when she goes to work (so she doesn’t bother). Not healthy and no one confronts her.
Then, while Neil spends a good half of the book working on his issues with professional help, Sophie secludes herself in their huge mansion. A couple times a friend would trek out to see her, but it was rare and usually not at her request. Sophie has become a one-way friend. She is not reciprocating support to her friends in any manner. Additionally, we don’t see Sophie having any kind of life (social or otherwise) that doesn’t revolve around Neil. Codependent much? At one point Neil suggests to Sophie that they go back to couples counseling. We never see this. What we do see is a vivid portrait of her laying on the floor eating cookies and getting baked.
The last thing that bothered me with Sophie is that the BDSM scenes seemed to include a higher level of pain being given and Sophie often refusing to safe word, instead relying on Neil’s instincts about when to stop dishing it out. I found this very disturbing. Not the actual scenes, but the fact that Sophie is not in a healthy, clear-boundary headspace when she is playing. She is not taking responsibility for her own needs and physical health. I didn’t enjoy their playtime like I did in the other books.
What I really wanted to see was Sophie grow and do work on her own mental issues. It would have been much more poignant to see her tackle her abandonment issues and her new “motherhood” status with a professional and with her support system so that she rejoins Neil a mentally stronger more focused partner.
Other issues, plot holes, and inconsistencies
What happened to Sophie’s fashion magazine? I guess when you are the wife of a billionaire you can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a hobby. She surely isn’t treating it like a serious business.
What happened to Neil’s foundation? Certainly he didn’t lose passion for his charity. I would have liked to see his involvement long-term.
We couldn’t get one super sweet scene with Sophie and Olivia bonding. Really?!?
Where did Emir go? Wasn’t the whole part of the first chapter to put him back in their lives?
Where did Gena go and why didn’t they have a conversation about that relationship?
Where did Michael’s parents go? Do they not care about their granddaughter?
Where did Sophie’s antidotal, wise, caring mother go? The Ex was full of their mutually supportive relationship. I guess now that Rebecca has a boyfriend she doesn’t have time for Sophie’s drama.
All my ranting is just because I was really invested into the series and wanted a tidy ending. Here’s the deal, if you put your characters through unbelievable torment, you have to prove that their current and future happiness is more abundant because of or in spite of their past sorrows. In this case, it fell short.