Ever After Always is the third book in Chloe Liese’s Bergman Brothers series. You don’t need to have read the first two books, but they are quite good, so you should read them. I received this as an advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Aiden and Freya have been married for almost 10 years and are still very much in love. Their marriage is still falling apart. When the book opens, Freya has asked Aiden to leave their home to give her some space. After a few days, he comes back home because they won’t let him sleep in his office. He knows that he is at fault, he even knows why, but he doesn’t know how to stop or how to talk about it. Freya feels like a failure because her parents marriage was perfect and she thought she had her life handled.
Aiden has generalized anxiety disorder and has lived with it successfully for years with therapy and medications. Unfortunately, when they decided it was time to start a family, his anxiety ramped up. I also have generalized anxiety disorder, so Aiden made perfect sense to me. Out of control anxiety can be like holding a gun and repeatedly shooting yourself in the foot. You didn’t mean to and you know you shouldn’t do it again, but the more you try not to do it again the more you shoot yourself in the foot. Aiden knows that he is pushing Freya away, but he keeps doing it and then feeling awful about it and trying to fix it in a way that makes everything worse. Aiden catastrophizes, and appropriately, he doesn’t feel able to change his behavior until his situation is compared to a Greek tragedy. As a catastrophizer, this spoke to me.
“Tom, those are Aristotle’s thoughts on tragedy.”
“Exactly. At some point, every love is a tragedy. It just doesn’t have to stay that way. We choose our endings. That’s Aristotle’s point. Tragedy is built—it has a structure. And if that’s not the ending you want, then you get out of that trajectory. You change the narrative.”
Frey has her own issues to work through and they are addressed beautifully imperfectly. I loved that there were no bad guys, just two people doing their best and finding out that doing their best wasn’t going to work. They go to therapy. They start letting friends and family in to help. Accepting help from others immediately makes things start to get better. It was a lovely and healing read. I loved that in the end no one is “fixed” and nothing is perfect, but they have gathered the tools to do the work.
Growth and forgiveness are big themes in this story. More than one person has to grow, and more than one person has to be forgiven. There is one subplot that I have mixed feelings about, but it wasn’t a deal breaker by any means. I enjoyed Chloe Liese’s voice. I think she’s writing interesting characters and exploring the complexities of love – romantic and familial – in interesting ways.