With You Forever by Chloe Liese is an adult, contemporary romance that involves a marriage of convenience between Rooney Sullivan, a law student with an inflammatory bowel disease known as ulcerative colitis, and Axel Bergman, an artist who is on the autism spectrum. Rooney needs a safe space to get away from all the stressors in her day-to-day life, so Willa, her best friend, says she can stay at the A frame cabin since no one will be there. However, once she arrives, she finds that not only is the A frame unsafe to live in, but it’s Axel Bergman’s time there and he happens to live in the cabin next to it. The story is beautifully soft and vulnerable while navigating what it means to love someone while also letting yourself be loved and cared for.
The Bergman Brothers novels are about a Swedish-American family of five brothers and two sisters. It is an interconnected series, so the books can be read out of order or as standalone. Based on the books that I have read, each story is vulnerable in a way that makes it feel safe to open your heart and examine your own experiences with love and family. Every book that I have read from this series has made me feel seen in ways that I never thought possible. They generate a sense of warmth, safety, and comfort. The A frame feels familiar and safe, so once you start reading another book from the series, it’ll feel like returning home.
The series takes the found family trope to another level. You’re not simply observing these characters find love and comfort in one another, but you become a member of their family. You receive love and comfort from them, too.
With You Forever is one of my favorite romance reads of the year. It holds such a special place in my heart. Axel and Rooney felt real and tangible. I made note of this after reading the first few chapters, but I could read about them doing mundane acts together forever and I would be happy, grinning from ear to ear while my cheeks turn pink. I would never tire of them.
Rooney and Axel are both so lovesick, and it is beautiful reading about them as they learn to see themselves through the eyes of the other. They share intimate and vulnerable pieces of themselves. They created a home and a safe place to freely be themselves.
Axel is so attentive and observant. He goes grocery shopping and buys ingredients for meals that won’t upset Rooney’s stomach. He also makes sure to buy sweets because he knows that Rooney loves them based on the times she has spent with his family over the years. Axel, however, doesn’t eat sweets, and, so, the owner of the locally sourced grocery store smiles at him knowingly each time.
Axel’s brother, Viggo, recommends regency romances to him, so, naturally, Axel has a whole library of them in his home. There is also a scene that parallels the Pride and Prejudice hand flex.
Axel Bergman is the answer to the question “What would a man who isn’t misogynistic, sexist, etc. look like in society?” Men often feel the need to justify their feminine behavior in order to defend or feel secure in their masculinity. However, Axel embraces himself and what he loves and doesn’t make it a point to emphasize that he is a man who reads romance or boasts about the fact that he braided his sister’s hair for soccer practices or that he is an excellent cook. All of these are just things that he enjoys doing and are simply pieces of him. They aren’t meant to be used as manipulation tactics.
Additionally, he sees Rooney as a person and values her as one while regarding her body with reverence. The level of communication during intimate scenes was so extraordinary to read. I love that Chloe Liese didn’t make consent implied in the novel. The characters always made sure that everything felt comfortable and pleasurable to the other, and verbal and enthusiastic consent was necessary for that.
Rooney is also a massive Harry Styles fan. She names the dog after him, the dog Axel claims “isn’t his” despite the fact that he cares for him as if he were and built him a mini A frame dog house. The book’s playlist features multiple Harry Styles songs such as “To Be So Lonely” and “Sunflower, Vol. 6.” Other chapters had songs from Taylor Swift, Hozier, Adam Melchor, Sufjan Stevens, Maggie Rogers, and more!
The book was written before the release of Harry’s House, but I can imagine Rooney listening to it as Axel paints in the studio, their cat, Skugga, and dog, Harry, loyally cuddling with her in the corner.
A song from Harry’s House that I think aligns with the novel is “Matilda.” The song especially relates to Rooney’s tendency to reassure everyone she loves that “everything is fine.” She tried her best to hide her chronic pain from her best friend, Willa, because she knew Willa was struggling with her own past, so she carried the weight of her pain and tried to deal with everything alone. It also relates to her relationship with her family. Although her parents love her in their own way, she conveys the idea that sometimes love isn’t enough. However, she found a family of her own with Willa and the Bergmans. They love each other, and she knows that they can carefully soothe the pain together. They can love each other comfortably and honestly.
“Cinema” by Harry Styles is another one that could be added to the playlist. It is so wonderfully Rooney and Axel.
Since love, sex, and other aspects of romance are usually depicted through an able-bodied lens, society can make it feel like there is only one “right” way to love someone. Axel and Rooney—the Bergman Series overall—is a warm and safe place where love is reimagined. It’s a place where love can be explored and love languages can be redefined. It’s a place that feels like a comforting hug, and it makes my heart smile.