Book Reviews, Books

Book Review: The Five Stages of Falling in Love by Rachel Higginson

Author: Rachel Higginson (Website | Twitter)
Publication Date: January 27, 2015

Book Cover - The Five Stages of Falling in Love


The Five Stages of Falling in Love is a Contemporary Romance.

Elizabeth Carlson is living in the pits of hell- also known as grief.

Her husband of eight years, the father of her four children and the love of her life, died from cancer. Grady’s prognosis was grim, even from the start, but Liz never gave up hope he would survive. How could she, when he was everything to her?

Six months later, she is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and get the kids to school on time. Both seem impossible. Everything seems impossible these days.

When Ben Tyler moves in next door, she is drowning in sorrow and pain, her children are acting out, and the house is falling apart. She has no time for curious new friends or unwanted help, but Ben gives her both. And he doesn’t just want to help her with yard work or cleaning the gutters. Ben wants more from Liz. More than she’s capable of ever giving again.

As Liz mourns her dead husband and works her way through the five stages of grief, she finds there’s more of her heart to give than she thought possible. And as new love takes hold, she peels away the guilt and heartache, and discovers there’s more to life than death.


Purchasing links: Amazon | B&N


The Five Stages of Falling in Love follows through Liz Carlson’s life as a widow, as a parent and as a person who lost a very important person in her life. It takes place six months after her husband (Grady) died from cancer and Liz, left with their four children, is barely managing to keep her life and family in line. A seemingly normal day in Liz’ life takes a different turn when she finds out that they have a new neighbor – Ben Tyler. Ben is a thirty-five year old lawyer who seems to pop out of the thin air when she needs some helping.

As weeks goes by, Ben became a permanent fixture and brings in an air of normalcy in the lives of Liz and her children. Through the thick wall of grief encasing Liz, Ben managed to infiltrate his way in and be that someone who Liz turns to. Then as days flew into months, it couldn’t be denied that the attraction between them is getting more and more palpable. While Ben fully knows what he’s getting into, Liz on the other hand is still in a knee-deep grief situation over Grady’s death and filled with indecision in her life. He can only do so much about it. Everything’s pretty much hanging up in the air for Ben because Liz and only Liz is the lone person who would be able to extract herself from her personal bubble. The only thing that he can do is to guide her as she wades through her grief.

The book is realistic, highly emotional and enthralling. This is the first book that I’ve read from Rachel Higginson, so I really don’t know what to expect from her. But once I started reading this book, her writing instantly drew me in. I can attest that Higginson truly has a way with words that could tug at her reader’s heartstrings. All throughout the book, she managed to place in various moments that would make you tear up, feel the emotions and struggle of the characters and reflect on their thoughts during those scenes. The feelings of the characters will really seep into yours.

As the title suggests, we see Liz go through and overcome different stages (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance) in facing the reality of her life’s status. Told from Liz’ POV, it was very easy for readers to imagine being in her shoes. Higginson wrote the story authentically and reading the book feels like you’re weirdly and genuinely witnessing the life of a real person unfold in front of your very eyes. The pacing and the build up of every scene in this book may also have something to do with that. Yes, there were certain parts that seem quite slow paced for me but when I think of it now on how it worked for the book – it just fits and worked perfectly. Reading this book will also give the readers a sense of being alongside Liz; how she’s coming to terms and slowly picking her life back up after the death of her husband.

“Why did Grady’s death spread to every aspect of my life? Why couldn’t some things remain untouched by grief?”

Higginson also effectively showed, translated the internal struggle of Liz into words and made her readers feel it. Liz is a mess. Her emotions are all over the place and her mind is constantly at war with her heart. And every chapter you’ll feel her struggling, may it be an emotional one, mental or her physical struggle to keep up with the chaos her kids are creating. The thoughts that go through her head, her thought process and how she deduces everything truly fascinated me. Her actions and reactions were what I really pictured out as with someone who’s also experiencing the same thing with her. I understand where she is coming from with regards to her hesitancy towards having a new relationship. The worry of betraying her husband in doing so is a legit struggle. The grief, fear, doubts and stress that hovered around Liz makes her hesitation about things okay and truly understandable.

“With Ben, we had started at the beginning with something fragile and small, but what we had was never like what Grady and I had. Our feelings for each other didn’t start as a seed, they started as an ocean. I felt as though we were separated by miles of rocky, turbulent water that could drown both of us or either of us with the wrong step…”

It wasn’t only Liz’ grief over the loss of her husband that was given highlight in this book but we were given various moments wherein the kids, the in-laws and her parents shared their grief with her. Those moments made me tear up, big time. Especially, the ones with the kids – Blake, Abby, Lucy and Jace.

“But don’t be sad all day. He only went on vacation. He wouldn’t leave us forever. He loves us too much.” – Lucy

It needed a great effort for me to read through those scenes when they were acting up and trying to cope with their situation. It broke my heart seeing these innocent kids suffering from such a loss.

“Why did he have to leave us, Mommy? Why did he have to die?” – Abby

Liz may be having a difficult time with which direction she should be maneuvering her life to but she’s a good parent. She knows that she must not drag her kids down alongside her personal turmoil. There were moments in the book where she may not have noticed a thing or two happening with her kids already but then when she steps into her motherly shoes, she just shines. She really did her best in helping Blake, Abby, Lucy and Jace deal with the loss of their father by thinking of ways to remember and treasure the great moments they each have with him. She always thinks of the best for her kids.

Ben Tyler is a gem and he served as the light during the darkest moments in Liz’ life. I love how Higginson started with her story acknowledging the difference between Ben and Liz. A bachelor and a widow, left with four kids. So it made it such a joy to see Ben interacting with the kids and acts naturally around them. His caring and parental instinct takes over him.

“But the more I get to know you, the deeper I fall. And it isn’t just you I’ve fallen in love with, but with your family, your chaotic life. I cannot imagine my life without you and the kids in it. I don’t expect you to feel the same way about me…” – Ben

Ben may not have the life experiences that Liz had already gone through but he was just the right person for Liz. He deeply understood the gravity of what she was experiencing. Ben was one of the few people who became part of her support system when she needed it. He was present when she needs someone whom she can talk to and solicit comfort when the pain gets to tough for her. He also knows where he stands in Liz’ and the kids’ life and he never made it his mission to take over the position left by Grady. Ben was there and be anything that Liz needed for him to be. He risked his heart, even if he knows that there isn’t certainty when it comes to Liz. You can see and feel how genuine his gestures are and how it was out of care and love that drove him to do it. Try not falling in love with that kind of man. Tough job.

I just have this small issue with how Liz came to terms with that big moment here in this book. The point where she finally reached the last stage and realized everything. Was it just me? Or that part was kind of rushed? It would’ve left a deeper impact if that scene was extended for a few more pages. It doesn’t only take an I realized it and “I love you” from a person to fully convince someone that they feel that way towards them. And with books, readers should be carefully eased into scenes like this because a huge moment (shift in a character’s life and decision) such as that doesn’t happen in a snap of a finger in real life. We (or I) need to feel that they really are 100% fully committed to each other and to their relationship. That’s just my opinion, though.

The stages of falling in love are actually the same ones that people go through in dealing with grief and you’ll witness Liz Carlson’s character go through both of those stages in this book. Grief and Love. It was pretty clever how Higginson interweaves two contradicting ideas. The Five Stages of Falling in Love is a story about loss, family, love and learning how to truly live. This book gives a realistic picture of how tough pulling out one’s self from the state of grief can be but also showed the beauty once healed with love. I definitely recommend this book to those book nerds who are heart-wrenching reads junkies.




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