Ever heard the term leave well enough alone? That’s what continuously went through my mind while reading The Endgame. Adrienne Ruvalcaba had something with the first two books in this series; Her Darkest Day and Beautiful Beginnings. She built a solid foundation to a romance that gave us many glorious feels. But as the story came to its conclusion, it got in its own way. Not entirely a deal breaker, but if you’re going to read to the finish line, be warned, you’re taking the long way through a dry desert.
A Short Summary
When we last met Andie and Max, they had finally come together (no pun intended), but not everyone was happy with this outcome. Revenge and misunderstanding collide, sending Andie rushing away from Max, maybe this time for good. While he’s left to pick up the pieces and move on with his life, she’s never far from his mind. On the eve before his wedding to a world famous actress, Max’s ex drops a bombshell. A move she hopes will end Max and Andie’s long suffering romance for good. But Max is determined not to let that happen, and pulls a couple of tricks from his own sleeve to ensure he and Andie finally get their happy ever after. Will he succeed or will Andie forever be his best friend, but never his wife?
Where it all went side-ways
I’m starting with the cons, because I want to end this review on a good note. But what can I say? With each page I read, the anticipation I had for this book, quickly diminished. Ruvalcaba spent an astonishing amount of time exploring Max’s tech company woes with pages of tech jargon that caused the pacing of the story to slow to a funeral procession. Couple that with the time spent on Andie’s budding opera career (that went nowhere, mind you), the story was effectively stymied. But that wasn’t the only issue.
There were many redundant moments. Times when Max and Andie had lengthy conversations either with others or together that culminated in summations of past scenarios from the previous books. Given this isn’t a standalone, one has to ask, why the long, drawn out recitations of the past? It’s insulting to the reader. We already know that happened, now move us forward, please. But redundancy was part of the problem, not the end-all.
In creating conflict, the author made it too unreasonable for them to return to each others arms. Though I live for the slow burn, this chase became a serious drag. Aside from the story getting bogged down with too many unnecessary side plots, the melodramatic tropes Ruvalcaba included took away from the heart of the book. That heart is Max and Andie. A lot of silly misunderstandings that could have been resolved with a simple conversation.
Added to that were characters thrown in and yet left to fade into the background until the very end where it seemed she rushed to resolve their story lines. I’m left to wonder, why include them at all, they really added nothing of note to the story. I am all for drama, but it needs to make sense and not be forced for the sake of creating conflict and extending the word count. Still, by book three you’d think the author had a handle on the little things that plagued the previous books (such as copy edit issues). Nope. The typos continue into this book, and looking at it all with a culminating eye, it seems clear that this book was not professionally edited. With a professional copy and substantive edit, a lot of these issues would have been minimized if not entirely eliminated. But I won’t end this review on a negative note. I enjoyed the first two books too much to do that.
Where it went right
One of the best aspects of this book and series is the strong bond between Max and Andie. The previous books built this great foundation with characters that had believable vulnerabilities, heart, compassion, dreams and motivations that made sense. Ruvalcaba created this world around Max and Andie – and it worked well in the first two books, in The Endgame, it was the only thing keeping the story from drowning under its own weight. To give an example of some of the maturity and beauty the author pens, take a look at this passage:
It had been out of his hands since he had met Andie at twenty-three. By the time he had realized he had a heart, he had already given it to her. And he would never ask for it back. He knew that it was safe with her and always would be.
It’s not some dazzling turn of phrase, but the simplicity of thought, and the depth of emotion the author threads throughout this story is beautiful. It’s the ingredient that kept me reading even when I hit the snags and bumps. Ruvalcaba explores enduring friendship and romance in a way that feels real. Even when the characters were exhibiting moments of insecurity and immaturity, that emotional tangibility remained. Another aspect I enjoyed about this and the series as a whole, were her handling of the intimate scenes. There weren’t pages upon pages of explicit sex scenes. These moments had a natural feel. There were build-ups, and moments of consummation that hit the right spot without exhausting us or breaking the momentum. The chemistry between the characters was believable. And that leads me full circle, back to where the heart of this story resides.
The ultimate strength of this book is with the two main characters, Max and Andie. I find when I read romance, there are one of three character elements that can potentially make or break it for me. The first is that neither the heroine or hero are believable or people I can believe in for the sake of the story. Two, the hero is written well, but the heroine has no personality – more of an after thought, a means to an end. Three, you have two even-keeled characters that feel real, that you want to root for. They are Goldilocks’ recipe for perfect porridge. Most times I do not get number three. But if I waited to read books that only gave me that, I wouldn’t read this genre at all. Sometimes you have to take the bitter with the sweet. And that’s why I find this series to be a success even with the poor showing of the final installment. Max and Andie made the book.
In the end
My concluding thoughts are this, the first two books are worth the read. Could the final book have been better? Yes. More concise and focused? Yes. Thoroughly edited? Of course. But it doesn’t take away from the merit of the overall story. My recommendation is to read the first book on Kindle Unlimited. If you like it, then read the second (also on Kindle Unlimited). And if you like that, follow my lead and purchase the entire three book series at the low price of $5. It’s worth it. These are characters I definitely want to revisit down the line, when the story has blurred in my memory. These were flawed characters, but they felt real even in the most extraordinary of circumstances. Were there stumbles along the way? Yes. Will you struggle to reach the conclusion in book three? Perhaps. But what’s a few potholes to see how it all turns out? The road to romance is paved with good intentions.
My rating for The Endgame: A less than stellar 3.0
My Best Friend’s Wife series rating: An in your feels 4.0