When Leeds meets Layla, he’s convinced he’ll spend the rest of his life with her—until an unexpected attack leaves Layla fighting for her life. After weeks in the hospital, Layla recovers physically, but the emotional and mental scarring has altered the woman Leeds fell in love with. In order to put their relationship back on track, Leeds whisks Layla away to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. Once they arrive, Layla’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. And that’s just one of many inexplicable occurrences.
Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow—another guest of the B&B with whom he forms a connection through their shared concerns. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers puts him in direct conflict with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to make a choice because he can’t help both of them. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental for all of them.
Layla by Colleen Hoover left me dumbstruck. I liked the story, it’s a quick read and certainly got my brain swirling with theories. Actually, I started off thinking I didn’t massively enjoy this book, but the more I thought about it at length, I realised there was a lot going on that I appreciated, even if I had issues here or there.
Layla unfolds through the perspective of the character Leeds, across alternating timelines for a portion of the book.
For me, Hoover sacrificed a level of immersion for the reader because there wasn’t one character to really connect with. For almost the majority of the story, I found myself reading it caring about what the characters did, but not necessarily what happened to them.
I don’t feel Leeds was a strong enough protagonist – for the majority of the book he doesn’t inspire love or hate, but indifference. I felt distant toward him. I really think an alternating perspective from one of the female characters, Layla or Willow, would have been worthwhile. As it was, I needed to feel more connected to all the characters in a positive way, where I could empathise with them and more, but with the way the story progresses, I was robbed of that because I was so suspicious of everyone… which demonstrates how masterfully Hoover had me on tender hooks… it was just at the expense of likeable characters.
Layla definitely has an interesting take on the paranormal, and is probably my favourite thing about the book. It’s thought provoking to the point where you can’t help but consider existential questions like is what you know, really what you know about the world, and is there such a thing as the afterlife. Is Layla original? I haven’t read a book with this kind of story, so I’d say yes, but if anyone has feel free to let me know.
I felt utter sickness reading this book from 40% onwards. Before that it was intrigue and curiosity, but heaven above, I felt ill by the middle of the book. The last 15% was just unfiltered psychological horror for me. I was sweating, tense and even slightly breathless at the height. I was invested by the end so much so I would have been really irked if the story ended up any other way. I would have been livid!
**Without a shadow of doubt Layla most definitely would benefit from an epilogue. The ending was far too abrupt and doesn’t feel complete. I think an epilogue is needed to round up the story more smoothly, and leave the story on a more settled note for readers (please read edit below)**
Colleen Hoover has once again captured an under-the-skin uneasiness with Layla, which is totally different to Verity, so is evidence of how talented Hoover is. I didn’t particularly like the story’s execution and would have preferred a stronger reader-character connection, but the story was intriguing and a page turner by the end up. I’d love to see it as a movie. If you’re looking for an unusual ghost story, this has got to be it – and I say that in the best of ways. It’ll haunt you in one way or another!
**Edit: when I read this book in July, the book didn’t have an epilogue. It sorely needed one (as I explained above) and Colleen Hoover and the publishers have now included an epilogue! I’ve since read it, it’s a standard epilogue and hopefully helps other readers with not so much of an abrupt ending. However, something I really need to stress, it’s been 6 months since I’ve read this book and I could probably get away with rereading it, it’s that wiped from my mind. I remember Verity with such vividness (which I read almost 2 years ago), whereas, I don’t remember very much at all about Layla after 6 months. So for its lack of memorability, I’m reducing my rating to 3 stars.**
Thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for this honest review.
Layla by Colleen Hoover
Published: December 2020
Genre: paranormal romance, romance, mystery/thriller