I received a free physical copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.
Venus Rees is left devastated by the sudden death of her husband, Gilles. But when she discovers that he died of a treatable genetic condition she knew nothing about, she is haunted by the thought that he didn’t love her enough to save himself.
As time passes, the emptiness of Venus’s life becomes apparent, no more so than when she meets the handsome and sensitive Alex. Her attraction to him eclipses even her preoccupation with her dead husband as she embarks on an unusual love triangle. But what she doesn’t reckon on is Alex’s past link with Gilles.
Ideal Love is a work of women’s fiction that focuses on the concept of love throughout its many stages. When Venus’s husband dies, she begins to question her own beliefs on love due to the very nature in which he died, warring with the idea that he knew all along and put herself and their daughter at risk. However, when she meets Alex, the meaning of love begins to change as they hold deep and meaningful conversations not just about love in itself, but Venus’s relationship with her late husband.
This novel was definitely a slow read, and sometimes I did find it hard to concentrate due to the chapters that were coming from Gilles’ point of view. His voice seemed a bit all over the place and flighty, like he couldn’t hold onto one train of thought for a very long time and so, whenever I was reading his narrative, I felt a little bit disjointed. However, the rest of the novel I found thought-provoking and insightful as you see how Venus’s thoughts on love change and alter based on the experiences in her life before and after Gilles’s death.
I liked that Burnett provided scenes from their life prior to her husband’s death, as it helped to understand how deeply in love they were and give more clarity to the feelings of betrayal and mistrust that Venus now holds following his death. Through this, you got to see how their love started off almost as an obsession on Gilles’ part, to contentment, to arguing about mundane things like working all the time and not having enough time for others. It shows the arc of love from budding romance to companionship. With Venus’s later connection with Alex, she is finally able to accept and move on from these feelings that have developed since finding out about Gilles’ genetic condition. Venus talks through all of her feelings and emotions with Alex in a bid for them both to understand what they are getting into and it is clear that Venus has come full circle with Alex. Now it is her turn to have a love obsession as she cannot get Alex out of her head. Though, in the beginning, these new feelings confuse her and make her feel like she is betraying the one person she has truly love, she eventually begins to understand that Gilles would be far happier if she moved on and made herself happy and, through her developing feelings towards Alex, she begins to understand that she will never know the truth about what Gilles knew but that she must move on.
As Venus comes out of one love and into another, you can’t help but find yourself falling for Alex as well. He’s handsome, understanding, sensitive, and possesses a small amount of innocence in his inexperience with women. You can see how Venus has fallen for him and end up slipping into the love triangle of the book with ease. I loved the concept of this novel and what it represents. Though it was a bit slow at times, it picked up far more towards the last half of the novel as Venus and Alex come to terms with their relationship and all that it entails.