Rachael Tamayo’s novel Crazy Love is a brisk, psychological thriller that will leave you breathless.
*I received an advanced readers copy (ARC) of Crazy Love. The following review does not address any potential grammatical or formatting errors as I did not receive a final copy.*
Following the lives of three characters – Emily, Isaiah, and Noah – Crazy Love bounces between each point-of-view to tell an intimate, chilling story of obsessive love. Tamayo executes this multi-perspective narration with finesse. Her narrator’s voices are unique, their separate perspectives of the same action fascinating to read.
A twisted love story, Emily falls in love with Isaiah, but not before Noah becomes infatuated with her. Convinced that every glance, smile, and gesture Emily makes is a sign that she loves him too, Noah begins to build a delusion. This delusion compels him to commit escalating acts of stalking, invasion, and eventual violence. Emily’s world falls into chaos as Noah manipulates his way into her life, but she finds comfort in a rekindled romance with steadfast Isaiah, a police officer, who promises to protect her no matter the cost.
None of Tamayo’s characters are healthy, but this is a good thing. Never once did I feel I was reading a caricature; these characters are genuine and real. Emily’s past is painful and complicated, but she deals with it through avoidance and distance. She’s often needy and too naïve, and there were many times I wanted to reach through the book and scream, “tell that guy to screw off!” Emily’s chapters are unsettling but engrossing as we watch her confidence drain and her fear rise.
Leading man Isaiah struggles with complicated emotions that demand his attention. He manages feelings of abandonment and inadequacy in his new relationship with Emily. Their romance is passionate, but its speed and intensity aren’t always healthy. Yet compared to Noah’s delusions you can’t help but root for Isaiah and Emily’s love. Isaiah’s chapters push the novel forward as he begins to piece together the mystery surrounding Noah’s obsession with Emily. His position as a police officer sometimes over-complicates the case as much as it helps due to well-described, legal red tape. I kept rooting for Isiah to figure out what we, the readers, knew before it was too late.
However, it’s Noah’s chapters that leave me breathless. He is one of the most fascinating villains I’ve ever read. While I fall short of feeling sympathy for him – mental illness does not excuse stalking and violence – he is a multifaceted, beguiling character. A handsome, wealthy, successful businessman, Noah might remind you of an older version of another romantic lead. But Tamayo turns that trope on its head. The driving force of the novel is Noah’s ability and power to use his wealth to manipulate his world around Emily. Some of the most unnerving scenes are during his chapters. We see how disconnected Noah’s delusions are from the way he acts and speaks to other people. On the outside, he’s reserved, detached, authoritative, and capable. Only his inner monologue betrays his insanity. I hope Tamayo continues to create compelling, dynamic villains like Noah.
Crazy Love is a slow build of tension and terror; it steals your breath and sends shivers down your spine. Tamayo’s descriptions of Noah’s calculated movements to inject himself into Emily’s life are disturbing to read. They made my blood pound, and more than once I found myself putting the book down to double-check my locks and turn on a few more lights. The assault on Emily’s privacy was the most nauseating to read. Home invaded, possessions stolen, and intimacy violated, each point-of-view chapter added to the growing dread churning in my stomach. I had to keep turning the pages.
All Tamayo’s descriptions are evocative and tangible. They paint a vivid picture of Emily’s world, and exactly how Noah penetrates it. The novel played out like a movie in my head, and I’ve already begun casting the leads. This book will have a seamless transfer to the big screen; it’s a modern-day Fatal Attraction.
I’d classify Crazy Love a romantic-thriller, but the romance part stumbles a bit. Isaiah and Emily’s love is passionate but excessive. I love tender, erotic sex scenes, but the frequency of lovemaking these two engage in damages the intensity of the thriller. At the very worst, it slows down the pacing of the book. I found my eyes glossing over a few of the late-game sex scenes eager to return to Noah’s unnerving hunt for Emily’s affection.
I also need to mention that this book tackles the darker side of mental illness including how law enforcement is often the first to respond to a suffering individual. Tamayo handles this situation and its devastating effects with tact and honesty. First responders shouldn’t be the first (and too often the last) step to getting help. Tamayo addresses this in a thoughtful note following the closing chapter. She’s also donating 15% of the proceeds of her book sales to The National Alliance on Mental Illness.
My addendum to this: 1 in 4 people will struggle with mental illness in their lifetime. Unlike Noah, individuals with a mental illness are no more likely to be violent than anyone else and are more often the victims of violent crimes. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, and while we need to do better as a community to support mental health, help does exist. Please visit MentalHealth.gov for more information about services in your area. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, don’t wait. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline right now: 1-800-273-8255.
You should read this book if: you enjoy fast-paced psychological thrillers and sexy, passionate romances. Rachael Tamayo’s writing is entertaining and easy to read. She hooks you from the first sentences and doesn’t let go until the last page. I am excited to read more of her writing – she’s an author to watch!