Grade : A-

I'm not sure why I decided to re-read Unforgiven. I'd read it years ago and thought it was good but not great. This go-round, it impressed the hell out of me. It resonated in a way contemporary romance rarely does with me.

Adam Collins and Marissa Brooks grew up in the small town of Walker’s Ford, South Dakota. It's a place where people drive pickup trucks, live in the same houses they grew up in, and where it feels almost impossible to become anyone other than who you once were. Calhoun's rural America is more than credible--people worry about paying the bills, drink crappy coffee in worn booths, and rely on the library to show them worlds other than their own.

When Adam and Marissa were seventeen they were in crazy, wildly in love. Though they never had actual sex, they spent every moment they could in each others' arms. When they thought about the future, Adam dreamed about exploring the world on his beloved motorcycle and Marissa longed to buy and restore her family's ancestral home, Brookhaven.

Adam destroyed one of those dreams one horrible night and the next day, he left town and joined the Marines. Twelve years later, he returns to Walker’s Ford, having left the Corps. On the night he returns, he walks into Brookhaven, now almost fully restored and owned by Marissa, to attend the engagement party of Adam’s best friend, Keith who is marrying Delaney, a woman Adam was engaged to for years and whom he broke up with eight months ago for reasons that no one really knows.

Adam's attention, however, isn't on the celebrating couple, it's on Marissa and, within an hour, the two are having the sex Adam denied them in high school. Within days, they are lovers.

Marissa lets Adam into her body but she's determined not to let him back into her heart. Though Adam says he's back in South Dakota to stay--he plans to study architecture at a nearby university--she doesn't believe he won't again leave her and Walker's Ford. And, she might be right. Adam keeps his emotions on lock-down and, despite the the heat that burns between them--and whoa does it burn--, he's still so damaged by what happened seventeen years ago.

Adam and Marissa are tethered to the past in heartrending ways and their story is absorbing. Change is difficult for both of them and it's hard to watch them so limit their lives. Neither believes they deserve joy or love let alone a coupled happy ending. The small steps they take occur organically--there are no big misunderstandings here--and work beautifully to oh so slowly allow them to shed the pains of their past.

Calhoun is one of the very best writers of love scenes and this book is on fire in that regard. If you're looking for a story where consent, sex, and emotion are fused fabulously, look no further. The erotic prose in Unforgiven, like that in Uncommon Passion, my favorite of her books, is arousing and emotional.

I loved Unforgiven this read. It's moving and beautifully written. Its people and places feel real. Adam's and Marissa's story has heft in all the best ways. It's a DIK for me on the second time around.

Buy it at Amazon/iBooks/Barnes and Noble/Kobo


Reviewed by Dabney Grinnan
Grade : A-

Sensuality: Hot

Review Date : May 1, 2018

Publication Date: 06/2013

Recent Comments …

  1. Having that problem too – just now, hugely enjoyed Spite House by Olivia Dade, m/f CR done wonderfully. Strong rec.

  2. I really didn’t think you were criticising anyone, so we’re good! There was a discussion on AAR some time ago…

  3. But, queer romance are as real to me as non-queer, so I still don’t understand your thinking. I still want…

Dabney Grinnan

Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day. Publisher at AAR.
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