Kelly Rimmer’s Unspoken is a marriage-in-trouble, second-chance romance that left even this romantic certain that divorce has a place in this world.
Paul Winton is naked in front of his wife. Tragically, this isn’t a prelude to sex. He’s at their vacation home, which she’s taking in the divorce (set to be final in five days), and through some Parent-Trap-style shenanigans on the part of a mutual friend, his wife Isabel has come to stay at the house for the weekend, just like he has, a fact he’s discovered while wandering downstairs. No one is leaving. It’s the Battle of the Alamo, if the Alamo wasn’t a former Spanish mission in Texas, but an old East Coast beach house that I envisioned as a more rundown version of a set from a Nancy Myers movie like Something’s Gotta Give.
I detested Isabel. At the start of the book, she observes how she’s “never felt anger like this before”. As the child of divorce, I can testify (ahem, permission to approach the bench, Your Honor, in the matter of Winton v. Winton) to the fact that divorce makes some people demonic, and Ms. Rimmer shows that masterfully in Isabel. But according to Paul, she is also “a gentle person” and “empathetic”. Personally, I cannot testify that there is any evidence Isabel is either of those things, and no, the defense will not move me with talk of how she runs an exercise class for senior-citizens.
Paul, on the other hand, is rather likable. He’s a tech “genius” and he’s neurodiverse, neither of which are things I’ve encountered before in a romance hero. He’s super buff though, because he works out now, so if you were afraid that you’d have to muster lust for a hero with the bod of Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, fear not. You know how there are always those university admissions questions about What challenged you recently and how did you overcome it? Well, the answer for Paul would be this divorce, and his solution was therapy, and exercise, and mindfulness, and an “official diagnosis. . . [of] Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level One.”
Ms. Rimmer successfully argues that Paul and Isabel’s relationship had strength in only one sector: the physical. She displays an impressive observational capacity for the nuance of chemistry and sex. There’s a whole thing about the importance of eye contact during sex and there’s a line I loved that says they “shared the kind of chemistry that hums in the background even when you’re in separate rooms, driven by the potential of an encounter.” However: I’ve read a number of romances recently (The Giving Heart and Seduced by the Soldier) which have presented me with characters who are so opposite in values, personality, or human decency (I’m looking at you, Isabel) that I cannot believe they will ever survive as a couple, or what’s worse, that they should. Isabel and Paul fall into this category.
In her concluding argument (i.e., the final page) Ms. Rimmer argues “that falling in love can be easy, but staying in love takes work. It’s hard and it’s messy sometimes; there are no shortcuts in building a life together.”
Unfortunately, Unspoken is a story that makes those words conjure images of a lifetime of emotional depletion and deliberate, constant vigilance, not a HEA. In the opinion of this Reviewer Attorney, Paul Winton would have a much greater quality of life without Isabel Winton, and he should be freed, along with his financial and personal assets, to pursue a Happy Ever After elsewhere. It is also the opinion of this Reviewer Attorney, that readers would best pursue a Happy Ever After elsewhere as well.
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