The narrative, set against the backdrop of four close friends – Ava, Bridget, Jules, and Stella, focuses primarily on the intense romance between Ava Chen and Alex Volkov. Their story is one of passion, facing the demons of their pasts, and the complex dynamics of love.
The story unfolds through the alternating perspectives of Ava Chen and Alex Volkov, showcasing their tumultuous journey from animosity to deep, passionate love.
Ava, a spirited photographer, finds herself reliant on Alex, her brother Josh’s best friend, for a ride home, marking the beginning of their intricate relationship. Alex, the COO of a successful company, is emotionally distant, a result of past family traumas, and initially, their interactions are marked by tension and hostility.
Their bond begins to transform at Josh’s party, where Alex commits to protecting Ava from a problematic ex while Josh is away.
This protection becomes a catalyst for their evolving relationship. Ava’s warmth begins to thaw Alex’s icy exterior as they share their deepest vulnerabilities: Ava’s amnesia before the age of nine and Alex’s hyperthymesia, a condition that allows him to remember every detail of his life.
The narrative gains momentum with Ava and her friends devising “Operation Emotion,” a playful scheme to crack Alex’s stoic facade.
Their dynamic changes further at a charity gala, where a jealous outburst from Alex signals a turning point in their relationship. Intimacy blossoms, revealing Ava’s night terrors linked to childhood trauma and water.
As their attraction intensifies, Ava learns about Alex’s darker desires, piquing her interest rather than deterring it.
Their connection is tested when Ava’s life is endangered, prompting a fierce protective response from Alex. The plot thickens as Ava unravels the dark truths of her past, discovering her father’s attempts on her life, driven by resentment over her true parentage.
Meanwhile, Alex harbors a vendetta against Ava’s father, whom he mistakenly believes responsible for his own family’s demise.
His quest for revenge leads to a shocking revelation implicating his uncle Ivan, culminating in a dramatic confrontation and Ava’s kidnapping.
The narrative reaches its zenith with Ava and Alex grappling with betrayals and truths.
After months of separation, Ava’s determination to overcome her fears leads her to London for a prestigious fellowship. Alex, realizing his love for Ava, follows her to London, embarking on a year-long quest to win back her trust.
The story concludes with a heartwarming reunion, as Ava and Alex reconcile their love, surrounded by friends and family during Thanksgiving, leaving the door open for Josh’s eventual acceptance of their relationship.
Ava Chen: The Heart of the Story
Ava, our 22-year-old protagonist, is the essence of “Twisted Love.” With her raven hair, delicate features, and passion for photography, Ava embodies both vulnerability and resilience. Behind her positive facade and ‘Sunshine’ nickname lies a depth shaped by past traumas.
Ava’s journey from leaning on others to embracing her independence, especially through her confrontation with aquaphobia and her father’s dark secrets, is the crux of her character development.
Alex Volkov: The Enigmatic Protector
Alex, Ava’s love interest, is a complex character with his jade-green eyes and an air of mystery. At 26, he’s a successful COO with a past shadowed by family tragedy. Known for his reclusive demeanor and protective instincts, Alex’s life is a blend of precision and pain, his experiences shaping his reluctance for emotional vulnerability.
His transformation throughout the story is marked by learning to embrace intimacy and love.
Ivan Volkov: The Manipulative Puppeteer
Ivan, Alex’s uncle and CEO of Archer Group, is a pivotal antagonist. His obsession with power and status contrasts with Alex’s quest for justice.
Ivan’s deceit and manipulation, especially regarding the murders of Alex’s family, play a critical role in the novel, showcasing the destructive power of greed and betrayal.
Michael Chen: The Complex Antagonist
Ava’s father, Michael, is a character shrouded in ambiguity. Initially seen as distant yet supportive, his true nature is revealed as the story unfolds, highlighting themes of betrayal and the consequences of past actions.
His complex relationship with Ava adds depth to the narrative, especially through the revelation of his actions against her.
Josh Chen: The Protective Brother
Josh, Ava’s older brother, is her unwavering pillar of support. His outgoing and popular nature contrasts starkly with both Ava’s reserved personality and Alex’s introversion.
His role in the story, particularly his trust in Alex to protect Ava, sets the stage for the unfolding drama between the main characters.
Ava’s Friend Group: The Loyal Companions
- Bridget: The regal and animal-loving Bridget is poised to be the focus of her own story in the series. Her grace and unique background add a touch of glamour to the group.
- Jules: The fiery, red-haired pre-law student is a force of nature. Her persuasive and occasionally chaotic nature brings both humor and depth to her interactions with Ava and the group.
- Stella: The fashion and lifestyle blogger is the quiet yet influential member of the group. Her multicultural heritage and significant social media presence add a contemporary and relatable aspect to the story.
Writing this review feels like navigating multiple bouts of emotional disturbances.
To be honest, “Twisted Love” is a paradoxical blend of captivating and perplexing elements. I’m torn between admiration and criticism for this novel.
It’s a rollercoaster of a read, and I’m here to unpack it all.
What I Liked:
Characters: Ava and Alex are characters you can’t help but root for despite their flaws. Their development, along with the supporting cast, especially Bridget, adds a rich layer to the narrative. Bridget, as a princess, might stretch credibility, but it’s a charming quirk that adds to the story’s whimsical charm.
Tropes: Huang’s writing shines, weaving favorite tropes like ‘brother’s best friend’ and ‘grumpy/sunshine’ into an engaging tapestry. The realism in the unresolved tension between Alex and Ava’s brother, Josh, is a breath of fresh air, promising more depth in future installments.
Representation: The cultural diversity is a standout. Ava’s Asian heritage and Alex’s Ukrainian background are portrayed with care and authenticity. The incorporation of Chinese cultural nuances is seamless and enriching, adding to the story’s texture.
To be honest, the first half of the book is delightful, setting a high bar for a solid entertaining read. However, the second half veers into territory that left me questioning the narrative choices.
What I Did Not Like:
Plot: The latter part of the novel feels like a melodramatic shift, straying into soap opera territory. The plot twists with Ava’s father feel overdone and detract from the story’s earlier credibility. Moments like Michael’s villainous monologue come off as overly theatrical and less nuanced than expected.
Writing and Characterization: The novel struggles with ‘show, don’t tell.’ The progression of Ava and Alex’s relationship lacks the organic development necessary in a compelling romance. Time leaps forward, but the emotional journey feels rushed and underdeveloped.
Again, here the aspect of groveling is another missed opportunity. We are told about Alex’s year-long effort to win Ava back, yet we don’t witness these critical moments. This omission weakens the believability of their reconciliation and the depth of their relationship.
To conclude this review:
My anticipation for “Twisted Love” was sky-high, fueled by enticing previews and the promise of beloved tropes. While the book delivers on many fronts, it also falls short in crucial areas.
The need for more polished editing and narrative development is apparent.
I’m intrigued enough to consider the sequel, mainly due to the engaging group dynamics and Huang’s potential as a writer.
Would I recommend it?
Yes, as a ‘guilty pleasure’ read.
It has its flaws, but it’s far from a lost cause. There’s a charm in its imperfections and a promise of growth in Huang’s storytelling.
1. The Lasting Effects of Childhood Trauma
At the heart of the novel is an exploration of how early life experiences shape the emotional and psychological landscapes of individuals.
Ava and Alex, the protagonists, are both haunted by their pasts. Ava’s night terrors and memory loss before the age of nine are poignant representations of repressed trauma.
The narrative skillfully unravels these buried memories, revealing the profound impact of childhood experiences on her adult relationships and sense of self.
Similarly, Alex’s character is deeply molded by his past – the tragic loss of his family and his hyperthymesia contribute to his emotional detachment and drive his actions throughout the story.
Huang’s handling of these themes underscores the idea that the shadows of our childhood can linger long into adulthood, influencing our decisions, relationships, and our journey towards healing.
2. The Vulnerability of Intimacy
The novel delves into the complexities and vulnerabilities of forming intimate connections.
Ava and Alex’s relationship evolves from a place of mutual distrust and emotional barriers to one where they gradually peel back layers of their guarded selves. Their journey is not just about falling in love but also about the courage it takes to be vulnerable with another person.
Huang portrays intimacy not merely as physical closeness but as an emotional landscape where fears and deepest secrets are shared. This theme is particularly poignant in the context of their respective traumas – it is through the act of opening up to each other that they begin to confront and heal from their pasts.
The story brings to the forefront the idea that true intimacy requires not just physical attraction, but the bravery to expose one’s true self, with all its flaws and scars.
3. The Power of Submission
An intriguing aspect of the novel is its exploration of power dynamics within relationships, particularly the power inherent in submission.
The narrative challenges traditional notions of power, suggesting that there is strength and control in choosing to be vulnerable or submissive. This theme is most evident in the evolving dynamic between Ava and Alex.
Ava’s curiosity about Alex’s darker desires and her willingness to explore them signifies a form of empowerment – a deliberate choice that defies the conventional understanding of submission as weakness.
Similarly, Alex’s journey towards emotional openness, which he initially perceives as a form of weakness, becomes a source of strength and connection.
Huang uses their relationship to subtly dissect the complexities of power and control, showing how these elements are fluid and often exist in a state of balance rather than in opposition.
- “If you wanted, I would burn down the world for you.”
- “If you let lesser people determine your self-worth, you’ll never reach higher than their limited imagination.”
- “You are the light to my dark, Sunshine,” he said in a raw voice. “Without you, I’m lost.”
- “You don’t have to work overtime to get people to love you, Ava. Love isn’t earned, it’s given.”
- “She felt like heaven to my hell, the closest I’d ever get to salvation, and yet I still wanted to drag her into the depths of Hades with me.”
- “Alex gripped my chin and brought my gaze to his. ‘What did I tell you? You’re mine, Sunshine. You’re never touching another man unless you want him six feet in the ground. So yes, we’re fucking exclusive.’”
- “Love.” The word floated between us on a soft gust of air. “Deep, abiding, unconditional love. You want it so much you’re willing to live for it.”
- “I’d do anything for you. No matter how twisted or impossible.”
- “I wanted every shadow of his soul and every piece of his beautiful, multilayered heart.”
- “Consider it a lesson for the future. Pretty words and pretty faces don’t equal pretty souls.”
- “I hated how much I wanted her, and I hated that she wasn’t smart enough to run away from me while she still had a chance.”
- “I would never leave you.” Alex drew me into his chest, and I sank into his embrace for the first time in what felt like forever. It was like returning home after a long, lonely trip abroad.”
“Twisted Love” is a compelling narrative that masterfully blends romance with deeper themes of trauma, healing, and emotional growth.
Ana Huang skillfully portrays the complexities of human emotions and relationships, making the characters’ journey both relatable and inspiring.
The novel not only offers a captivating love story but also delves into the psychological aspects of personal struggles, making it a poignant and thought-provoking read.