Sophie Walker just blew her entire bank account on this exotic vacation to the Maldives. She needs this time away from her controlling parents, a career she hates, and a passionless ex-boyfriend, and her best friends have vowed to help her forget all of that. However it’s Clayton Sinclair, an English stranger also vacationing on the island, who removes all thought of LA from her mind. Sophie finds herself falling fast for Clayton, eager to step into his world of passion and wealth. Has she found the man of her dreams, or is this really too good to be true?
I have mixed feelings about this book. Certain parts of it I loved. The way that the relationship between Clayton and Sophie began and progressed felt realistic, albeit not a scenario that happens all that frequently. Otherwise there would be a lot more women coming home from vacations with stories of sexy men with eyes only for them.
Sophie’s doubts about herself, her choices, and Clayton made her a three-dimensional person. She makes all of the decisions I’d want to make. Stepping away from a potential law career, a relationship that doesn’t work for her, and her family’s expectations for her life. And then she takes a risk on a handsome stranger who offers to show her the passion she’s been missing in her life. In that regard, I wished that I could trade places with her.
The biggest problem that I have with Mad Love is the fact that Clayton’s obsessive infatuation with Sophie creates an emotionally abusive relationship. There’s an attempt to minimize it by Sophie occasionally standing up to him and Clayton increasingly giving Sophie the option to choose for herself at the end of the novel. But the emotional abuse is absolutely present.
While there are many instances, the one that stuck in my mind took place in the last hundred pages. Sophie picks out a little black dress to wear to dinner with Clayton’s friends and colleagues. He thinks it’s too short and asks her to change. When they’re interrupted and she doesn’t change, he seethes throughout dinner and tries to punish her by showing off a model ex-girlfriend. That’s after he threatens to punish her for disobedience and force her change her clothes.
There are dozens of other examples. They all follow the same pattern. Sophie expresses thoughts or desires contrary to what he wants, Clayton gets angry and forces the issue until it turns out the way he wants it, and then they have a honeymoon period where everything is right in the world. A few pages later, the cycle begins again.
Yes, the writing is phenomenal and Sophie is a beautifully crafted protagonist. But the relationship isn’t healthy.
I’d recommend this book with the qualification that the reader must be aware that this relationship can be fun as a fantasy on some level, but not as a permanent lifestyle.
Mad Love by Colet Abedi will be published by Bird Street Books on March 10, 2014 and will be available in paperback.
*I received an advanced copy of this book in return for an unbiased review.