There has always been someone else in the background; someone they really shouldn't turn to for help...
To Sammie, Jay is her first boyfriend; someone to be loved and adored, someone she is desperate to make happy.
For Felicity, eleven years later, Jay is a distraction from the traumatic loss of her parents; her relationship with him uncomplicated, impulsive and mindless.
Then Jay turns Felicity’s world upside down when he asks her to help him get revenge on a childhood friend; a friend he said destroyed his relationship with Sammie, and wrecked his life. But when Felicity agrees to Jay’s strange plan, she gradually begins to realise she’s treading a path that has been trodden by Sammie before her, as Jay becomes increasingly controlling and abusive, and she finds herself trapped.
But what neither Felicity nor Sammie realise is that there has always been someone else in the background of Jay’s life; someone obsessed and dangerous, someone who they really shouldn't turn to for help, because when it comes to Jay, this person will do anything for him.
Anything For Him is a psychological thriller by author L.K. Chapman, and quite honestly, I am not even sure where to begin with this review. And that's a good thing because, spoiler alert, I loved this book. It follows one of the most toxic love triangles (two triangles in fact... so, a love star???) I can imagine, both in the present and in the past via flashback chapters.
There are four main characters throughout the novel; Jay, Mark, Sammie, and Felicity. The love triangle of the past features Jay, Mark, and Sammie, while the present triangle consists of Jay, Mark, and Felicity. Now, if you handed me a book and said it was about a love triangle, I would gag, swallow the bile out of respect, and politely (maybe) turn you down. As I mention in my review guidelines, romance is just not my genre of choice. I feel it usually lacks depth (a gross and purely subjective generalization). However, having read Anything For Him, that's not how I'd describe it, even those it focuses heavily on the relationship dynamics of four individuals. Or at least, I'd add a quick "wait wait, it's not you're typically love triangle story" caveat. Because it's not. And I find myself lacking the words to accurately describe it.
But I'll try...
As I alluded to, the novel consists of two separate timelines: one where the characters are adults and one where they were teens. We start off following Felicity as she navigates a tumultuous, and frankly abusive, relationship with Jay. Jay convinces Felicity to help him get revenge on a childhood friend (Mark) by befriending, and eventually seducing, him in order for Jay to then swoop in and "take" Felicity from him. As she goes about that task, we jump back to an earlier timeline, featuring Sammie, as she begins a relationship with a younger Jay, just to show what a nebulous creature Jay is. Both timelines are wrought with drama, twists and turns, betrayal, and abusive behavior. And despite being granted a view into two different versions of a similar story, never did I have any idea who to trust, root for, or believe. I am not kidding when I say that every chapter I found my opinion on each of the characters changing. And each time I was "sure" of what was really going on. And each time I was very wrong.
But let's try and break it down further...
This story rides on the strength of its characters. Without that, it would fall flat. Luckily, Chapman did a phenomenal job of crafting believable and fully fleshed-out characters. They all had their flaws (some glaring) and yet even the most "wicked" of them I found myself getting behind at times. Of course, I would then read another chapter and flip-flop my opinion of them. But that's the beauty of this novel. At no point can you be fully sure who's "good" or "bad." Because none of the characters are either. The clearest example of this is the character Jay. It's obvious from the get-go that he is supposed to fill the villain role, but I felt my opinion of him changing the most frequently. Never have I read a character like that; where one minute I want him dead, and the next I want to see him rise victorious. I pitied him, I hated him, and empathized with him, I trusted him, and I felt betrayed by him. I'm still confused as to how to feel about him.
All good thrillers are supposed to keep you guessing, hanging on the edge of your seat, until the final reveal, where you are expected to slap your forehead in bewilderment. However, that almost never happens. So many times, the ending can be guessed right off the bat, and even if it's enjoyable, the plot is never in question. Here, that is NOT the case. At any given point in reading the novel, I could say that I was certain of the underlying plot and just knew how it was to end. But then I'd read another page and change my mind. I know I keep beating this point into the ground, but I want you all to know how very tumultuous the plot is. I never did figure it out until the final period. And even then, I found myself saying aloud, "what? Wait... what? WHAT?"
The editing is good and never broke the flow of the story. The prose is straight forward and solid and serviceable. While I tend to write in a very lyrical and overly verbose manner, it was nice to read something concise and non-flashy. Ultimately, writing style is a manner of opinion, but I enjoyed it even though it is far different than my own.
No novel is without flaws, but I had a hard time coming up with much. My biggest complaint is that the transition between timelines when they first start occurring is confusing. Now, this may merely be a failure to comprehend on my part, but bear with me here... The "past" timeline focuses on Sammie, and with the first few chapters of her, I had NO IDEA it was a flashback or alternate time. I just thought we were going to follow a different character. Even when Sammie began interacting with a "Jay" I didn't make the connection. Needless to say, I was awfully confused until I realized exactly what was going on (somewhere about a 1/3 of the way into it). Again, this may be me being a dumby, but I like to think myself fairly sharp, and can't be the only reader who was flummoxed by this. Even though it's a little cheesy, I would have appreciated something like "ten years earlier" at the start of those chapters.
And if I have to nitpick, the cover is ho-hum. It's solid and well-designed, but tells me nothing about the novel itself.
Quite simply, Anything For Him, is my favorite indie book I've read, as of yet. And it's not a genre I typically opt for. In fact, I never would have read it had I not had the author on my podcast. It is so easy to take a thriller and fill it with cliches and easily discernible "twists and turns." Never have I seen it done so well. And the characters... I still have no idea how to feel about any of them. I love/hate them all. And it's perfect.
I feel I must also mention that there is a fair amount of abusive behavior on the part of the characters, both verbal, physical, and sexual. It is done, in my opinion, beautifully. Each scene is handled with tact and respect, and is necessary to the narrative. However, it still may be triggering to readers with histories of abuse.
This is what a thriller is. Accept no substitution.
Final Score: 93/100 (because no one's perfect)
I award this my totally made-up and meaningless "Dragon Seal of Approval," given to only the most deserving of titles. It signifies a title I would demand everyone read, and that I would reread. A high (made-up) honor, to be sure.
If you want to get to know L.K. Chapman a bit more, check out her episode of The Introverted Indie Author Podcast.