At this point, you guys know I’m trash for this series. It’s honestly just like a high school soap opera, but it’s so addicting and completely impossible to put down. And even though I haven’t enjoyed any of the installments as much as Paper Princess, I knew I couldn’t pass this by because this story is about my favorite Royal boy, Easton.
Reed’s off to college and Ella and Easton are finishing their senior year of school. And Easton is still being Easton; abusing drugs, fighting, having sex with anyone without thinking of consequences. And after one day at school where he chooses to be particularly bad, he is confronted by a girl who is immune to his charm. Hartley Wright is dealing with her own dark secrets, and she doesn’t have time to deal with Easton or his bullshit.
“You’re not the white knight in this picture. You’re the villain!”
But, like, Easton’s story starts out feeling really… gross? And it honestly just set a really bad tone for the book for me. Reed and Ella’s story was a slow, agonizing burn that started out as a hate to love, but it was still an always mutual attraction. Easton refuses to take no for an answer from his love interest and it made me really uncomfortable to read about.
Hartley never shows interest in Easton, which makes Easton want her because she’s so openly unattainable. And instead of respecting her and her wishes and trying to slowly win her over or something, he honestly stalks her. He changes his school schedule to have the same classes as her, he goes to her parents’ house unannounced, he honestly won’t leave her alone no matter how much she protests. And this goes on for like half of the book, until Hartley finally breaks down and starts liking him. But, like, she’s going through so many sad things in her life, it feels worse that she’s using her stalker as comfort because she honestly doesn’t have anyone else.
I don’t know, maybe I’m just being really sensitive because I know how it feels to tell a guy no and for them to turn around and refuse to listen. Plus, it feels so bad being romanticized, especially because Easton was my favorite out of his brothers! He always seems to sweet, caring, and kind, but was abusing substances because he couldn’t deal with the death of his mother. His character had so much potential to find someone and have a better start of a relationship than him being a creepy stalker.
Also, trigger warnings: losing a parent, underage sexual content (17), teacher and student relationship, physical abuse, underage drinking, drug use, addiction, and a lot of toxic male masculinity. So please use caution before going into this book.
All of these books end in a cliffhanger, so I really shouldn’t have been surprised that this one did, too, even though I was secretly hoping for Easton to have a standalone HEA book. Yet, this cliffhanger is the mother of all cliffhangers. Like, let me be the first to say that I’m sure Cracked Kingdom is going to start out with the ending of this book not being as bad as they are making it seem though.
And I know you guys are probably like, “Melanie, why do you keep reading this series if you continue to give it two stars over and over?” And that is such a valid question, and I know I should just cut my losses, but this series truly is addicting and so very fast paced. Like, all the problematic content shines so brightly through the story, but it is still somehow impossible to not turn the page, and that makes for a good reading experience even if I have to write reviews like this afterwards.