Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson (2021) Review

What happens when you start your marriage with a lie?

Why I picked up the book:

The premise of this book screams a fantastic thriller: Abigail is weeks away from marrying the man of her dreams. Bruce is successful, wealthy, handsome, and worships her. During her bachelorette weekend getaway, Abigail has a drunk one-night stand she hoped to leave behind her.

The guy she slept with had a different idea in mind, though. He tracks her down and tries to convince her they belong together, but an annoyed Abigail turns him down. That is it, right? Nope, not at all! This crazy stalker shows up at the resort Abigail and Bruce are honeymooning at, and his presence threatens Abigail’s new life; after all, Bruce does not know anything about what happened at her bachelorette party.

As if being stalked is not enough, strange things start to happen at the idyllic resort culminating at the sight of a terrified woman in the night shadows… Abigail is sure she saw her, but no one believes her. Not even Bruce.

The book through my criteria lens:

I will start off by saying I cannot fault Swanson’s ability to write a novel a reader needs to devour. Even though I get angry at times, it is undeniable that I always enjoy myself while reading his books. He is terrific at building the perfect atmosphere for thrillers: his books are always suspenseful, fast-paced, twists don’t feel forced, and flipping the pages just happen naturally!

I always look forward to hearing what his books are about. Swanson has some pretty wild ideas, and I love all of his plot ideas. I can’t quite put my finger on why his execution never entirely meets my expectations. It could be because I really dislike some of his go-to plot devices and some of the choices he makes. Another reason is that I cannot connect to the women he creates. They all feel stereotypical and, quite honestly, “evil”. The only female character of his I could relate to has been Hen. With that said, in this book, we saw this exact representation I dislike – the female characters aren’t flat, but they read as a man wrote them.

I do, however, appreciate Swanson’s fair play. As twisty-and-turny as some of his plots can be, Swanson is consistent and always plays by the rule. He plots carefully, and his solution is always within the reader’s grasp.

My personal feelings:

**MILD SPOILERS**

I have heard this book being compared to Lucy Foley’s The Guest List, and having read both, I disagree with that statement. They were completely different books to me. In my opinion, the similarities end with the fact that there are newlyweds and an Island. Lucy and Peter each have powerful, entertaining voices that are uniquely their own. 

I will start with the positives about Every Vow You Break: no one died of cancer! I am happy that at least one thing that bothers me about Swanson’s books did not appear here. Make it two things – there were no insensitive mental struggle depictions either! This is enormous progress. Depending on his next book, I might even retroactively reconsider this book as unproblematic and buy all his books as promised! (You can watch this video for context: https://youtu.be/r9WOYvID6DU

I feel that I can overlook the toxic masculinity and “all woman is evil” complex IF it doesn’t make an appearance in his next book. At least, in Every Vow You Break, Swanson tried to make it pertinent to the plot. I would not have had a problem with it if it were not a common thread in all his novels…

By chapter 11, I had already guessed the twist, but I was all in for the ride. When a book plays fair, I do not mind not being surprised. In fact, I enjoy a twist more if I see it coming at times! I see books as puzzles, and I am very competitive, Bahahaha. 

Every Vow You Break lost some points on execution for me, not because it was predictable, but because of some plot holes. I will not go into them as I will not spoil the book, but I will say that the end left a major question unanswered. (at least to me)

I will preface this part of my review by saying that I do not think that Peter Swanson is racist. Still, his depiction of minorities in this book was on the tone-deaf stereotypical side. For example, there was one black character, and he was described as aggressive and controlling. It was also awkward to read that someone lied about being engaged to him previously. Why did she lie to her now-husband? You ask. Well, apparently, her husband is insecure and would feel inept if he knew she had slept with a black man because of the size of his organ. Do with that what you will. 

I also found it uncomfortable to see the one Asian character described as an employee who was basically brought in to be a 24/7 silent servant to the central white characters. Am I being too sensitive? I don’t care if I am. It bothered me.

I was actually quite disgusted that Abigail was set up, basically sexually assaulted as she was too drunk to consent and then punished for it. Late in the plot, Swanson acknowledges the failed logic of Mr. toxicity himself, Bruce. At that point, though, it felt like too little too late.

To bring it back, yes, I always have issues with some tropes/plot choices in Swanson’s books. However, I always acknowledge that his books are amazing to read – fast-paced, unputdownable. His narrative is hella engaging, and he is not afraid to make choices that turn the plot on its head. I recommend his books; I just wish he would be more mindful of his choices. He is still the author I hate to love. 

– me, a still a conflicted fan

Enjoyability     10

Characters       7

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot           10       

Execution        7

Deduction 2

My total rating: 4.33

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

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