Someone is hunting Connor. While taking part in Selection, the elite Special Forces training programme, he must evade capture by a squad of paratroopers for several days in the wilderness of Bodmin Moor. When he’s offered proper rest and recuperation by the owner of a local farmhouse, he knows he is breaking the rules. But what’s the harm in accepting the kindness of strangers? Especially as his training partner Dele appears to have deserted him in the dead of night.
Eilidh is an impeccable host. Connor can barely bring himself to leave her charming farmhouse, though he’s running out of time to make his next rendezvous and re-join his partner. But he doesn’t realise what he’s walked into – because the choice isn’t his to make.
This isn’t Eilidh’s first kidnapping. She’s done this before, but they never came as close to perfection as Connor. Why would she let him leave?
Hi and welcome to my review of You Can Stay!
I decided to pick up You Can Stay because of the blurb, which made me think I was in for a tense thriller. Unfortunately, I ended up feeling rather unsatisfied. Note that this review may contain mild spoilers as I try to explain why it didn’t work for me.
You Can Stay is told from the perspectives of Connor, who is partaking in an elite Special Forces training programme on Bodmin Moor, and Eilidh, who lives in a farmhouse there.
I have to admit, You Can Stay and I got off on the wrong foot when Connor was forced to kill a lamb he had first befriended. All part of the training and people gotta eat, yada yada, I get all that, but first of all, the whole befriending thing seemed a tad weird and rather implausible and secondly, the killing did not need to be so detailed. Did it need to be included at all, for that matter? I personally don’t see the added value of this rather repulsive scene. If we were meant to learn something about Connor, I missed it in my righteous indignation about what was happening to the lamb. It does have some significance later on, but Connor’s a military man and he’s killed people in the line of duty, so I feel there was no need for the lamb.
I contemplated throwing in the towel there and then but I decided to give it a second chance. As I read, You Can Stay started to give me Misery vibes. However, where I felt compassion for Stephen King’s abused protagonist, I felt nothing of the sort for Connor. I kinda felt like he brought it on himself. Seriously, if this man were Special Forces, the country would be screwed. Moreover, where I absolutely loved King’s obsessed and batshit crazy antagonist, Eilidh is just… meh. She’s obviously mad as a hatter, no doubt about it, but not in a way that drew me in. If that makes any sense at all. I need to either love or love to hate my characters, but both Connor and Eilidh just annoyed me.
While I’m at it, I had another issue with the story and the characters, namely the frequent mentions of sex and the fact that Eilidh is quite clearly rather obsessed, while also using her body to get what she wants. This is by no means erotica, that’s not what I mean, and I’m fine with a few sex scenes, but all the mentions got real old real soon. Eilidh can hardly see (or hear, or smell) a man without thinking about what he might do to her, or she to him. One soldier looks to her like he needs some oats and a spanking 🤨🤔 I do wonder what that looks like. And I personally wouldn’t even think of comparing blood and the fact that it gets everywhere to sand after sex on the beach, but that’s the comparison Eilidh chooses to make. Also, she steams her vagina? “To maintain her edge against any competition, past or present.” What the what now? Firstly, is that an actual thing? Secondly, even if it is, I don’t want to read about it. Thirdly, it’s things like this that kept yanking me out of the story. I presume it’s supposed to attest to Eilidh’s character? But we readers aren’t stupid, we get it, we got it 150 pages ago, move on already.
Despite me actively disliking the main characters and most of their thoughts and actions, I did push through because a part of me did want to know how it would all end. I was also hoping for a very dramatic finish that might redeem what came before. And I’m just very stubborn when it comes to finishing books. Anyway, I don’t think I would have missed much had I just thrown in the towel after the lamb 😬
I really did think I would enjoy this book and I’m really sorry that I didn’t, not just for me, but for the author as well. I don’t like to dislike books, which is why I’m rather picky about what I read, but we all know you can’t love them all, and this one just didn’t work for me.
Thanks to Wildfire and NetGalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own.