This book should be titled “The One Where Jennifer L. Armentrout Destroys Every Negative, Sexist Stereotype About Women, and Ends the Cycle of Slut-Shaming.” Obviously, that one is a bit long, so Forever With You works just fine. I’ll admit, I was hesitant about this book (I’m ashamed to say that). Here’s the thing with this series; every time you read the next book in the series, you’re convinced there’s no way the next one could be better than the previous. This series is like wine, it gets better with age. I was (needlessly) worried that perhaps JLA was pushing it a little too far by writing another book in this series, but by the end I was doing what I had done at the end of the first four books: begging for another. Jennifer L. Armentrout is just too damn talented.
Stephanie is the infamous Steph from the previous books, the girl who has been with Cam and Jace (and countless other guys). By pure happenstance she finds herself in Plymouth Meeting, where she meets Nick. Nick is the quiet, moody bartender from Stay With Me and Fall With Me, the womanizing man who didn’t do relationships, at all. The two feel an immediate connection, act on it, and then part ways fully expecting to never see each other again. However both of them hadn’t realized their friend group overlapped, and find themselves constantly running into each other. Then a shocking secret pulls the two of them closer together, and their walls begin to crumble.
“I’ll never really understand it, why others’ sexual habits bothered people–especially other women–so much. Of all people, you’d think women would be more tolerant of other women’s choices. but sadly, a lot aren’t. In a lot of ways they could be worse than the guys. It wasn’t like I was sitting in judgement over those who waited for marriage or believe sex automatically equaled love. I could care less is someone has two partners or fifty. So why did they have to?”
The one weakness I’ve always felt was in JLA’s books was her portrayal of promiscuous women. There are definite instances of slut shaming in most of her New Adult books. It was always the fatal flaw in her female characters, but I could always overlook it due to the beautiful storylines and heart-wrenching moments of her books. The Steph came storming in, and every single slut-shaming, sexist trope was blown to smithereens (do people still use that phrase). Steph’s character was a big middle finger to every single stereotype about sexist women, and Steph herself never put up with a single instance of attempted slut-shaming or sexism. For starters, she isn’t promiscuous because she has “daddy issues”, or suffered emotional trauma at the hands of a man. Nope, she has sex because she likes sex. It’s as beautifully simple as that. And when other people tried to shame her for her actions, she wasn’t having any of that shit. She publicly chews Nick out when he was blatantly a “chauvinistic pig”, and when one of her co-workers gets handsy, she makes it blatantly clear that just because she has a lot of sex, she isn’t easy or a free-for-all. I wanted to give her a standing ovation multiple times throughout the book. She also destroyed all “he changed just for me” tropes–you know, the one where the girl magically makes a manwhore into a loving, devoted guy with a flip of her hair and cute smile. Nope, Steph made it clear multiple times that people change when they want to, not when a love interest makes them. Basically, I loved Steph, and I feel bad for ever doubting her.
“Nick was like jigsaw puzzle where the most intricate pieces had been misplaced, and deep down I knew that no matter how many times I would shake the puzzle up and start over, those pieces would always be missing and I would never have the complete picture.”
Whenever a new JLA male character is introduced, I’m fully convinced I could never possibly love him as much as I did the previous ones. How could he ever be as perfect and swoon-worthy as his predecessors. This is the fifth book, so you would think I would have learned my lesson at this point, but nope. There’s a curiosity surrounding Nick in the previous two books, and I always hoped JLA would explore his character more. I never imagined he would get his own book. I was hesitant with Nick, and ended up loving him more than than the previous four…except maybe Reece. He and Reece are tied for first. Nick was one of those confident and cocky guys that everyone rolls their eyes at. He had baggage, and he was also a bit of a dick in the beginning. Steph was having none of that though, and managed to peel back Nick layer by layer, and he just kept getting sweeter and sweeter. Because while he was a dick in the beginning, when Steph drops and atom bomb of news on him, he doesn’t act like pretty much every other guy would. Instead, he becomes the man every girl wants, and wow I definitely fell for Nick.
“I admire anyone who can successfully use the word ‘rat bastard’ in a sentence.”
This book wasn’t as emotionally draining as the other four books, but I was actually kind of grateful for that. Stephanie was the first character who didn’t do relationships, not because she’d suffered some horrible trauma, but simply because she was looking for her forever love, an all-consuming love. If that’s not cool, I don’t know what is. In fact, I’d say Nick had more baggage than she did, which is pretty atypical for an JLA book–not that I didn’t like the change though. Their meet cute was by far my favorite in the whole series; I couldn’t stop laughing.
“Most people wouldn’t get it, probably would’t tolerate us, but together…we make sense.”
The reason I was hesitant about this book was because of the main characters. Nick and Steph have made various appearances in the previous books, and every time their characters were standoffish, and painted in a lightly negative light. In fact, Steph was largely the reason I felt JLA hinted slightly at slut-shaming, and consequently had been JLA’s one strike with me. I was also convinced Nick couldn’t carry his own book; he didn’t seem as complex or have the potential to be as endearing as Cam, Jace, Jax, or Reece. Then Forever With You was released, and every I assumption I had made was obliterated by the words on the pages. I’d like to take this moment to publicly apologize for ever doubting these characters, as well as JLA’s writing abilities (stupid, stupid Grace). By the second page, I was already laughing, and by the sixth I was mentally thanking JLA for giving those gorgeous boys at Texas A&M a shout out (Gig’Em). I knew I had a winner in my hands. I really, really enjoyed this book. I almost gave it 4/5 stars, since it didn’t pack as much of an emotional punch as the others, but there were so many other positive things about it that I couldn’t bring myself to rate it any lower than perfect. I have high expectations for the next book…Brock and Jillian’s story? *fingers crossed*