Reviewed by Jenny and Gitte
Jenny: Well Gitte. Where do we start with Arsen? I know we were addicted. Even after the hiccup with the real names – one of our big bug bears in books. If we’re to escape reality and become engrossed in a story, there is nothing worse for us then to have the characters in the book named after real life people. It takes us out of the moment and all we see in our heads are the actual people, not the characters and we become disconnected to the story. But….even with that happening which is usually a deal breaker for us, we couldn’t stop thinking about this book and we had to keep reading. We cried over it. We shouted over it, we were pissed off over it and our hearts ached over Ben. Our emotions were shot to pieces and this book really did a number on us didn’t it G?
Gitte: Oh wow did this story do a number on us Jenny. There were several times whilst reading Arsen that I just had to put it down and take a breather. I was that upset, angry, frustrated and heart-broken and didn’t think I could go on. But I had to. For Ben if nothing else.
Jenny: Now this is where I have to high five the author because the fact that she invoked this sort a reaction from the both of us is surely testament to her writing. This author went there. She tested us to our limits. Mia Asher has written a story that not only put us through the wringer but made us feel everything from love to hate. It was Ben who held my heart and Ben who had me sobbing, and I think therein lies my reason for this book having such a profound effect on me. I loved Ben. With all my heart I loved that man and he completely and utterly broke me. Cathy??? Well, we’ll get to her in a minute.
Gitte: Absolutely agree. I have to give Mia Asher a standing ovation for how her writing made me feel. My emotions were so extreme and I felt sick with them all the way through. Her writing overwhelmed me and for that I applaud her! She has created a story that will have readers take sides in heated discussions, a story readers may even find controversial so will pick up purely to see what this fuss is all about. It’s a marmite book in the most perfect definition and I applaud you Mia Asher…well played!
Jenny : Now Cathy. Yep, sorry Gitte, as much as it pains me to even think of her, we have to go there. I know we’re supposed to have sympathy for this woman because of what she had gone through with her miscarriages and on a personal level I did. From that point of view, yes, I completely felt for her but that is where any empathy I had for that woman ended. I despised her. Now that’s a strong word and normally I would reserve that for a villain in a book, but Cathy tested me to the extreme and in my eyes, her behaviour certainly made her the villain of this story for me.
Now I don’t get worked up about cheating in stories. I can cope with it because I’m reading fiction and I see that way. When it is a momentary lapse in judgement that led to it or there is a reason behind it (not that there is ever any excuse in reality for it of course, but we are talking fiction here)I can handle it. But this woman! This woman took it to a whole new level.
“I see danger, and maybe something exciting. Something forbidden.”
In my eyes what Cathy did was calculated and it was cold. She was selfish and she had no regard for anyone’s feelings other than her own. She attempted to use her condition as an excuse for her deplorable behaviour and as much as I tried, I mean, I really, really tried to rationalise the irrationality of Cathy I couldn’t. The way she treated Ben was completely unforgivable and it was heartbreakingly cruel. She appeared to show no remorse and I felt she never redeemed herself at all. Gitte, I know you’re itching to tell us your thoughts on Cathy, so proceed…
Gitte: Okay, where do I start with Cathy, our heroine? Well, she met a man called Ben. A man who ticks ALL the boxes. A man I too fell in absolute LOVE with. She marries this man as they truly are soul-mates. Then tragedy strikes in the shape of reoccurring miscarriages which repeatedly tests their marriage…something so heartbreaking and demoralising yes. I personally understand the stress, the inadequacy and the feeling of failure. However, I do not understand the rationale of using this tragedy the way Cathy did. Because that is how it ultimately ended up as for me. An excuse derived from miscommunication to the excitement of having your cake and eating it too. I haven’t hated many female heroines. But I ended up hating Cathy. You can tell me I’m harsh, cruel or cold. Well, that’s fine but then so was Cathy. There was not one shred of any redeeming qualities about her. She was a nasty piece of work, rude, crude and selfish. She made me feel sick to my stomach. As a character, if I was meant to feel sorry for her, understand her and find the ending of this story believable, well then her character’s nastiness and selfishness shouldn’t have been taken as far as it did. Ultimately she was a spoilt and bored wife and I was not convinced of her love for Ben. She was overwritten to become a ‘one hundred percent’ villain in my opinion. I feel no remorse. I chose Ben. Sound familiar?
“Well I lost those babies too and I also lost my wife. I was left with nothing but memories”…..”Just remember Karma is a bitch.” – Ben
“How dare he! Life has been hell for me since my last miscarriage”…..”Karma may be a bitch but when he came inside me I didn’t care because I came so fucking hard that I saw stars.” – Cathy
Jenny: Oh Gitte, that line destroyed me. If that woman left me cold before, then that is when she really tipped me over the edge and there was no coming back for me from that point. Now I asked myself through this story, is love enough? When real life, sadness and tragedy invades our perfect bubble and we get lost in ourselves, we shut down, then is the love of another enough to pull us through. No, not always, but…….no matter what, you don’t treat the one person whose love is unconditional, whose strength is without exception, whose heart beats for one person and one person only with such disdain.
“I want what you have, though. Every woman wants that, a man who looks at her as if she were the only woman in the room. You’re so lucky to still have that.” Amy
How could you treat a person like that with such disrespect and such cruelty? I just couldn’t cope with her total lack of respect for Ben and her utter selfishness.
I was pissed off at her rationalisation of how Ben was in the wrong in certain situations. No, I didn’t empathise with this woman at all. In fact, I didn’t see her behaviour as a cry for help. In my eyes, it was the behaviour of a completely selfish individual who held no regard for anyone’s feelings other than her own. .
Gitte: Good question. Is love enough, does it get lost when faced with tragedy and the walls are closing in and the black tunnel become all we see? When being on the receiving end of the purest of loves, the most honest of loves, the supportive love, then yes…yes I do think love will pull through. I have to believe that love will pull through. If it doesn’t, which in reality may be the case then work at it, take a breath, walk away for a moment. What I cannot fathom is the irrational justification which became a choice not momentary quick stumble off the path.
Now, I can read fiction about cheating and understand how and why if the reasons are believable and the hurt of the cheating is made just about that. However, what I could not abide in Arsen was Cathy’s cruelty and disgusting behaviour following on from that first time of indiscretion. Her cruelty to the face of the man who had her on a pedestal and just wanted to help his wife after the loss of their child. I felt the writing of her behaviour was crass and totally unjustified towards Ben, which was ultimately detrimental to Cathy’s character and negated once again how this story ended.
“…please Cathy…please. Come downstairs with me. Let me bathe you….feed you…Whatever you want, baby. Just let me back in…” – Ben
Jenny: Now Arsen. Yes he was this extremely hot, sexy, rich man about town. Other than that, I I don’t know what to say about Arsen other than he came across as your stereotypical spoilt rich kid who wanted to pack up his bat and ball and run home when things didn’t go his way.
“This guy exudes confidence and sex.”
I wanted to smack him when he disrespected Ben and I wanted to slap Cathy when she allowed him to do so. I’ve no doubt at all Arsen had feelings for Cathy but I felt they felt borne from the fact that he wanted something that belonged to someone else more than anything.
Gitte: Now Arsen, well he’s a player. A young HOT player who likes what he can’t have and resents what other people have so wants it for himself. Takes it for himself. However, someone can always say no and walk away. Cathy did…then changed her mind because Ben was just too perfect and Arsen was a bad arse. Fair play. Can’t blame Arsen for that. Did I fall in lust or love with Arsen? Nope, he was a cock….not appealingly cocky. Yeah I felt sorry for him to an extent when in his POV he realises a few things at the end. But that was a little too late for me. I have a feeling this Author wanted Arsen herself more so than Ben so it all became about Arsen at the expense of the redemption of Cathy and the marriage.
“I need Arsen to burn me to ashes with the fire roaring inside his blue eyes.” – Cathy
Jenny: I agree Gitte. Now in Ben, the author wrote the most beautiful soul, a truly wonderful character and he had my heart. We were completely in love with Ben weren’t we Gitte? Deeply in love with this wonderful man who stayed strong for Cathy.
“You’re scaring me. What’s the matter? Tell me so I can fix it. Shit, Babe….please.”
Who put his own happiness and feelings aside to comfort Cathy and be strong for her. He had our hearts that’s for sure and the scenes between him and Cathy completely and utterly broke me.
“Cathy, meeting you was chance, falling in love with you was destiny, and loving you is my reason to exist.”
Well, you know how much one scene in particular broke me Gitte, because I rang you at midnight sobbing on the phone. It really got to me as I know it did you, and there was no going back for us after that. We were gutted.
Gitte: Got to hand it to Mia Asher, she truly wrote one of the best male characters I have come across in Ben. He had the most beautiful soul. Right from the moment he entered this story did he not only woo Cathy, he got me too. His respect, devotion, perseverance, patience and ultimately his pure love. This man was strikingly gorgous with a personality to match. Now, this guy is what it’s all about.
“Babe, please…don’t give up. It will be okay. I promise you. I’ll leave no stone unturned. There’s no place in the world where I won’t take you, there’s nothing I won’t do…..I promise you Cathy.” – Ben
As a bloke who loves his wife so desperately it must be gutting to see her grieve from the loss of a pregnancy. Remember he lost his child too. However, he’s the man and his immediate reaction is to push his own hurt and pain to the back and focus on trying to retrieve his wife out of the black hole she is residing in. Trying to make her feel better, trying to take away the guilt and the blame. Trying to cheer her up and suggest alternatives. Yes, that is what a real man and loving husband would do. It is not to be ridiculed and belittled nor is it to be crassly used as an excuse to go get your jollies elsewhere!
“You’re my fucking world, babe…….Own me, fill me, break me repair me, complete me. Do whatever you want to me. Just stay with me….I need you back.” – Ben
Jenny: Exactly. Ben was completely selfless which only served to have me disconnect from Cathy even more. The Arsen and Ben POV’s glimpses we got were timed perfectly. It was a different experience to see the situations from their sides, but in the same respect, hearing Ben’s POV at times was gut wrenching wasn’t it Gitte? And the ending? Well…
Gitte: I can’t even think about it. It still bloody hurts too much when I think about Ben’s POV!!!!!
And the ending….well I don’t buy it sadly! It does not seem believable nor plausible and true to the character development through their story. Too much had happened, the nastiness had been taken too far in my opinion.
Jenny: So, this book has consumed our thoughts for days. We’ve been passionately discussing it and we can’t stop thinking about it. So, I’d say the author was successful in writing a story that was going to cause a lot of discussion, a heck of a lot of emotions (this review is testament to that!) and have readers debating its content for a while to come. Of that there is no doubt.
For us, it’s 3 days later and we’re still feeling the after effects of this book. There hasn’t been a minute since then that I haven’t stopped thinking about Ben and it hurts. We feel somewhat bereft don’t we and kind of wish we could unread it because our hearts feel crushed don’t they Gitte?
But we did read it and it elicited some extreme emotions that still have us reeling. It was certainly a reading experience and one we won’t forget in a hurry. This is certainly a controversial debut novel from this author and one that has provoked the most intense feelings we’ve had in quite a while over a book.
Gitte: Yes Jenny, my heart hurts like a bitch and yes, if I could un-read it I would because it won’t leave me alone. Again, I applaud Mia Asher….it’s been 3 days and I’m still thinking about it, I still feel angry and upset. I still love Ben and want to hug him and ask him why!!!
It truly was an amazing well written debut because this is not a story a reader will forget in a hurry whether they loved it or hated it – Marmite!
Jenny: We all know that reading is subjective and no two people will see a book the same way or take the same experiences away from a story and as such you must remember that this is OUR interpretation of how we felt while reading Arsen. There will be heated discussions on this book and it is up to readers to check Arsen out for themselves and form their own opinions. However, can we say that in the process, please respect everyone’s personal opinion because we know from the few conversations we’ve had about this book with other readers that opinions on how the story unfolded are divided.
As for giving a rating for this book? We discussed the rating for this didn’t we G and decided we couldn’t rate it conventionally. So we think the best way is to break it up.
Gitte: This is only the second time this inability to rate a book has happened to me. I just can’t come up with a fair rating that covers everything in this book. So yeah, we definitely have to break this one up Jenny!
Writing: 5 Stars
Emotion: 5 Stars
Story: 2 Stars
Believability: 2 Stars
Ben: 5 plus Stars
Cathy: 1 Star
Arsen: 2 Stars
ARC Provided by Author in exchange for an honest review