Katharine Gilliam Regnery

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A romantic hero with a dark secret in UNLOVED

By Katy Regnery

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The blossoming romance in UNLOVED is beautifully and tenderly drawn, and the romantic conflict is unusual and ambitious, but ultimately the resolution disappoints.

UNLOVED is a romance between a gentle man living as a virtual hermit in the mountains of Maine and a woman from San Francisco who helps him discover the secret of his past.

This romance begins with a fantastic amount of promise. The heroine, Brynn, is grieving for her fiancé, who has died after a random shooting incident.  Brynn’s grief feels real and painful, and the reader is drawn to her from the start.

The hero, Cassidy, finds his life as a child changed forever when his father is arrested for the rape and serial killing of several women. The psychopathic father is skillfully portrayed in a few chilling details, and the subsequent impact on Cassidy’s life is given in all its bewildering horror. Cassidy and his mother move in with his grandfather, in a remote lodge in the mountains. Cassidy makes his grandfather a promise to “live quiet” – that is, never to fall in love and have a family, and thus risk passing on a psychopath’s genes. After his grandfather’s and mother’s death, Cassidy lives alone.

At the age of almost thirty, Cassidy has never kissed a woman. When Brynn is the victim of a brutal stabbing while climbing alone, Cassidy rescues her, nursing her back to health. The scenes where he and Brynn begin a tentative, passionate affair are some of the highlights of the book. Cassidy’s strength and gentleness are beautifully drawn. Up to this point, the romantic conflict is also a key strength in the book. The reader is dying to know how this lovely couple will ever be together, given Cassidy’s exaggerated yet understandable fears of passing on a psychopathic gene to his children, and his fear of being a psychopath himself.

This is an ambitious and unusual dilemma, but unfortunately the resolution is far too simplistic, and discloses a viewpoint disturbingly close to eugenics.  After the great start to the novel, the solution to the hero’s dilemma comes as a disappointment. Without giving any spoilers, genetic heritage is shown as black and white, when in fact psychopathy in itself does not necessarily lead to rape and murder. There are recognized psychopaths who run big businesses and are high-functioning members of society. On the other side of the coin, the children of upstanding members of society are not necessarily all sweet and gentle themselves. The author presents an overly simplistic view of inherited traits. How much more ambitious and satisfying this book could have been if the hero had found help to deal with his past, and not escape it via the solution offered in the plot.

~Eileen Hogg for IndieReader