Isn’t Willow Carmichael a beautiful name? It makes me think of fall and red leaves and the smell of the earth after the rain. Beautiful and romantic. I wish I could say the same about the woman bearing it. She’s obviously pretty and charming but not on the inside. I guess she has excuses for some of her behaviour but there are no excuses for the way she treats people.
Let me back up a little. Four months ago, Willow took a job in Vegas. For the past four years, in Chicago, she had been having an affair with Cecily Yates, a married woman. Cecily loves her husband Luke but hasn’t been in love with him in a long time, and multiple miscarriages sealed their marriage’s fate. Yeah, she should have left him, Willow agrees with that, even though she told Cecily she was okay with the situation. The truth is, she wasn’t. So she upped and left without discussing anything with Cecily, leaving her with a broken heart and a broken marriage. A promotion and a business trip bring Cecily to Vegas but the reunion with Willow doesn’t go as smoothly as either hoped. They fight, Cecily storms out of the room and, at the hotel bar, meets Francesca Lopez. Little does either woman know that the same fickle chick broke both their hearts.
I’m not a fan of cheating in romance but it happens and when it’s cleverly written, I can see how torn someone could be between two persons, between what her heart wants and what she thinks she should do. I can see how it can lead to wrong decisions, over and over. It makes for excellent angst and inextricable situations and so many feelings. I wouldn’t trust just any author to write about it but I have come to accept that Erin Zak can write about any sort of relationship, anything having to do with the human heart and psyche, and I will believe it.
The story she tells in The Other Women is that of two women who both believe they’re not enough, not worthy of love. There’s a rawness to Zak’s writing, something passionate just below the surface, that hovers right on the edge of pain. And by raw I do not mean harsh or blunt or basic. It’s poetic and romantic with just the right amount of lyricism, never over the top. Very alive, very real. I think I’ve written this before, but it’s like it speaks directly to my heart.
It will therefore come as no surprise that The Other Women kept me breathless almost from the first page. Cecily and Francesca touched my soul, and I held my breath, rooting for them, for this insane yet perfect match, knowing what had to happen, hoping no one would get irremediably hurt. It’s like the sword of Damocles, you know something terrible is coming, but you don’t know when or how. Beyond the love story and the betrayals and everything that ripped my heart and all that mended it slowly, Zak sprinkled her novel with really cool secondary characters. Luke, the husband, is awesome, as are best friends Max and Diamond as well as Francesca’s family and Cecily’s sister.
I am not the type to fangirl (except maybe when it comes to Star Wars) but I have so far read three books and two short stories by Erin Zak and for me, they are all 5* (to be fair, one short story was 4*). So maybe I’ll start fangirling now.