After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Rating: 4.25 / 5 Stars
Genre: contemporary romance
When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.
Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?
Why do we undervalue things when we have them? Why is it only on the verge of losing something that we see how much we need it?
As I embark on my Taylor Jenkins Reid binge reading marathon, I have to disclose that this is my second time reading After I Do and I loved it just as much as the first time. TJR can do no wrong in my eyes. Instead of a traditional contemporary romance premise, we follow the story of Lauren and Ryan reaching a breaking point in their relationship after six years of marriage. Because they decide to temporarily separate for a year, we don’t get a lot of the story from Ryan’s perspective and follow Lauren’s journey of self-discovery and growth.
I loved all of the other relationships in this book outside of Lauren and Ryan’s marriage. Throughout her trial year without her husband, Lauren reconnected with her younger brother Charlie and encourage her younger sister Rachel to pursue her lifelong dream of opening up a bakery. I’ve always had a problem with romance novels focusing exclusively on the main character, so Lauren’s developments were very refreshing to read.
One of the major themes that is constantly reaffirmed throughout the book and that Lauren grows to learn is that people can find their ideal perspective of love in different ways (*potential spoilers ahead in this paragraph*). This is portrayed throughout the variety of relationships in Lauren’s family (it’s almost like you’re getting multiple love stories in one). Nana claimed that she never had any major problems and always worked to endure the challenges during her long years of marriage. Charlie, who always struggled to settle down, ended up marrying a girl that he briefly hooked up with on a plane ride. Lauren’s mother is a single parent and doesn’t want to commit to her current boyfriend because she fears the issues that might arise after the honeymoon period fades away. And Rachel is perfectly happy in focusing on her career and remaining single. This message really resonated with me. People have different ways of being happy and it’s okay to not end up in a long-term relationship.
Lastly, TJR is a phenomenal writer and literary genius. I don’t know who else needs to hear it, but her writing style is heart-wrenching and beautiful. In the first few chapters, we are provided with a glimpse of how Lauren and Ryan first met and how they fell in love. We also got to see how they initially resolved problems at the beginning of their marriage in contrast to how they constantly snap at each other in the present, which provides a perfect setup for the rest of the plot. There were parts of this book when I physically felt Lauren’s pain and anguish over her decisions and other parts where I relished in her momentary happiness.
Even though this book was beautifully written and emotionally destructive, it was not perfect. At the end of the day, I had to take off 0.75 stars because I felt like the ending was very rushed, and it seemed like everything just fell conveniently into place in the last 10% of this book. However, if you are looking for a high-quality dramatic romance novel, you will not regret reading this.
TLDR: Beautifully written book with loveable side characters that focus on the main character’s personal growth. I loved this both times reading this book and would recommend it to those looking for some dramatic romance.
If you’ve read this book, let me know your thoughts!