How Not To Fall by Emily Foster (Series Review)

How Not To Fall and How Not To Let Go by Emily Foster
Published in 2016 by Kensington.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle / ARC via NetGalley. Thank you Kensington for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: contemporary romance.

My rating:

Data, research, scientific formulae–Annabelle Coffey is completely at ease with all of them. Men, not so much. But that’s all going to change after she asks Dr. Charles Douglas, the postdoctoral fellow in her lab, to have sex with her. Charles is not only beautiful, he is also adorably awkward, British, brilliant, and nice. What are the odds he’d turn her down?

Very high, as it happens. Something to do with that whole student/teacher/ethics thing. But in a few weeks, Annie will graduate. As soon as she does, the unlikely friendship that’s developing between them can turn physical–just until Annie leaves for graduate school. Yet nothing could have prepared either Annie or Charles for chemistry like this, or for what happens when a simple exercise in mutual pleasure turns into something as exhilarating and infernally complicated as love.

PEOPLE, listen up. I’ve found a romance so good, I gave it five stars! And the sequel is great, too, so sit back and let me gush, okay?

I saw How Not To Fall on the Smart Bitches newsletter (it’s funny, really, how many of my romance reviews should start this way), checked Goodreads, and saw Becky gave it a very good rating. I proceeded to one-click buy it and emerged several hours later, teary-eyed and heartbroken, to DM Becky about how good it was and how I wanted to read the sequel immediately. As luck would have it, the sequel, How Not To Let Go, was available on NetGalley, and I immediately plunged back in, with very satisfying results. I rated the first book with 5 stars and the second with 4, which is why we have that 4.5 rating up there.

It’s difficult to review just the first book, How Not To Fall, because it doesn’t have an HEA  and ends on a cliffhanger. I’m putting this out there even though I dislike spoilers, because when reading contemporary romances, happy endings are expected and you might feel hoodwinked if you get to the end of book one and the couple aren’t where you wanted them to be. So if you want to get the whole beautiful story of Annie and Charles, you’ll have to commit to both books (like that’s a bad thing).

Let’s start with the characters, though, shall we? Both Annie and Charles are scientists. They’re both very smart (like genius-smart), which makes for some really interesting conversations. However, I never felt like the scientific parts were too much, I liked how the subject of Annie’s studies pertains to the story itself.

The first thing I noticed about this book (reading the preview on Amazon), was how strong Annie’s voice was – the story is narrated by her and she’s funny and honest and awkward. I wish I could write voice like that. It also made me root for her from the beginning. Annie is wonderful because she’s got this great self-esteem, she knows she’s smart and young and pretty, and there’s very little hesitation on her part. (The second book has both characters’ POVs, which was a nice addition.)

Charles is a very interesting romance hero. His traumatic past makes him sound like another Christian Grey, and while there certainly are similarities between that stupid series and this one, Charles’ troubles are addressed in a much more sensitive, realistic manner. The first book focuses more on Annie, while the second explores Charles’ past in more detail. He’s got some serious commitment issues, so their involvement begins with an expiration date: Annie is leaving for grad school and they only have a month to enjoy each other’s company. Naturally, things don’t go as planned.

If you’re thinking that you’ve read this kind of story a hundred times before, just trust me: you haven’t. It’s a smart romance and I liked it, even if it’s not perfect (*spoiler in white* Like the fact that Annie is a virgin at 23 and Christian needs to, erm, show her the ropes. *snort-laugh* *end spoiler*). The author is a sex educator by profession, so you can bet that sex is medically accurate and also very hot. No “fade to black” scenes here.

If you’ve read the entire review and I haven’t convinced you to read these two books, I’m sorry. I also hope I didn’t create too much hype and that you’ll give them a try, be amazed, and report back to me. I’ll just be sitting here, waiting for Foster to write another book.

Have you read How Not to Let Go? How can I convince you to give it a try?

Do you like angsty books when they’re good?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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  • The cover showed up in my bloglovin feed and I just assumed it was a Nickolas Spark’s movie. =)

    • It does look similar. :D But I’ve never seen a N. S. movie (or read his books) so I’m not sure how it compares – based on what I’ve heard, there’s a lot more drama in his books than in this one.

  • I’ve never added a romance to my TBR so fast.

    I’ve always had a weakness for men in academia (I still have fond, secretly-blushing memories of that one history professor from undergrad; oh, young crushes), and am on an eternal, low-key hunt for well-written romances involving guys like that. Absolutely cannot wait to give this book (well, both books) a read. Thank you so much for pointing them out!

    • Wooo, I’m so glad. I hope you’ll like it!

      And yeah, men in academia can be serious hotties. I’ve always been wary of romances that involve professors and their students because of the power dynamics in such a relationship, but this issue is dealt with beautifully here. Enjoy this one!

      • Yes, anything with an off-balance power dynamic makes me extra cautious; it’s a relief to know it’s not mishandled here. I’m sure I will! =)

  • Thank god you mentioned the cliffhanger, because there’s no way I can go into this story without both books on hand. Binging the two is definitely the right way to go!

    I love the fact that the science was interesting but not overwhelming — unlike The Three Body Problem, which I read recently and turned my brain into soup with all the scientific info-dumping. I didn’t realize that Emily Foster is a sex educator, that’s awesome! I would read this duology just for that alone. It’s high up on my list now! :)

    • Yeah I saw the cliffhanger warning before I started reading the first one and I’m glad I did – otherwise I’d be completely blindsided by the ending of the first book. And I’m really glad I got the second one immediately, it’s a good duology to binge!

      And yeah, the level of science was just right. It didn’t seem superficial but it also wasn’t overwhelming. Like if I wanted science lessons, I’d pick up a freaking science textbook, not a contemporary romance (or a sci-fi novel for that matter). The only REALLY sciency book I read was The Martian, where about 90% of the science went completely over my head but Mark Watney’s snark got me through it all. :) I hope you give these a try and that you’ll enjoy them!

  • Great review, you have done these books justice. It’s funny you should point out the similarity to 50 Shades because Emily Foster was actually inspired to try and write romance after the boom of 50 Shades. She read because it relates to the work she does and seeing how unhealthy the relationship was in it decided to to writer her own. It was in one of the podcasts she did with Smart Bitches and I found that really interesting.

    I completely agree that these books need to be read together and even though they are angsty as hell I really didn’t mind. There is just something about them which works. And yes, I may have had to look up a word or two because of the crazy intelligence of Annie and Charles but I never felt it was offputting, in fact it made me like it more. I mean, I didn’t even care that it was a ridiculous premise for the book with innocent Annie being guided because it was written so well and it wasn’t as if Annie was some precious flower she just hadn’t got around to it.

    I seriously loved these books. I feel like they are the perfect angsty books and no book I read will manage to compare. Mostly because I am so over angsty reads right now, but also because it can never be done this well.

    • I didn’t know Foster was inspired to write after the 50 Shades thing! But she did a really good job. I should really start listening to the Smart Bitches podcast, I just haven’t gotten into podcast listening yet.

      Haha YES that’s it exactly – Annie wasn’t some virginal sacrifice, she’s just like: I didn’t feel like having sex and now I do, let’s screw each other’s brains out please. And while Charles goes a bit Neanderthal for a moment there, he’s really good about it.

      I’m over angst, too, I don’t need drama in my romances, I read them to fell good and fluffy. But this one was just perfect. I know I’ll be reading whatever Foster comes up with next!

      • Yeah, I thought that was really interesting too. I can’t remember which of the podcasts she mentioned it in, maybe the first one? If you give none of the other Smart Bitches podcasts a listen try and check out that episode. It’s the only podcast I listen to so I fell a strong need to tell everyone about it.

        And yep, Foster is firmly on my new favourite authors list and I will check out everything she writes. I mean, I say this like it’s difficult to get on my favourite authors list but I am quite easy to please really.

  • Okay, I’m sold. This sounds pretty amazing even though I struggle with contemporaries! I’m not in a romance mood but it will immediately go on the old TBR.

    Slightly off -topic question (sorry!) – I know you are a big fan of Jill Shalvis – is there a book by her that you would recommend to read first? Thanks for advice!

  • I now have two romance books on my Kindle thanks to you and Becky! I so love that they are scientists! I bet it makes for some fun conversation. I worried just for a bit when you mentioned that one series (bleh!), but it definitely sounds superior and more fun. I’m looking forward to meeting these two and swooning over them! :) Thanks for the rec, Kaja (AND BECKY!)! You two together are a dangerous combo for my wallet!