This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense, Western Romance
Published by Forever
Released on February 25, 2020
We met them in Justified and their chemistry was off the charts caliente in spite of the fire of Kody’s anger and the dreariness of Hill’s guilt, but with her dad’s death, Kody’s rules for holding her hatred and anger against Hill are about to be broken by both of them. I was excited to keep going with a series and author I only just discovered for myself and she delivered on a rather tough unrequited love second chances romance.
Unforgiven is the second in the Loveless, TX series and flows right on out of the first book even though there is a new main couple. So, not the best place to jump into the series, but the reader could get by with it in a pinch.
Conrad Lawson has been murdered and his three surviving children have a tumult of feelings over his death. He was never a good man and never toward his kids, but even wildly emotional Kody wants his murderer found. But that means sharing a town with the man she has flung hate and vitriolic anger on for years because it was easier to hate Hill and blame him for his brother’s death and abandoning her than admit that she wanted him even before she noticed his brother, Aaron. She couldn’t bring herself to even try for Hill out of misplaced feelings that she didn’t deserve a good guy after the regular abuse she had in the Lawless family and knowing her dad was a crooked cop. Instead, she put all her messed up love into his brother who was just as broken and messed up as she was. Hill was the solid foundation that she and Aaron both leaned on for years even after Hill left and got his place in the Texas Rangers until inexplicably Hill slowly shut her out. He felt badly for having his own life and not being there for her and Aaron and she knew it was unfair to blame him, but it was better than letting her other feelings surface. If only that were the only troubles going on, but she was the wild Lawson and impetuous bad decisions were her forte. What would Hill think if he knew how she kept her bar afloat or that she wanted him even more than she hated him?
My review is going to seem contrary and maybe confusing. I felt the need to warn readers up front. Fasten your seat belts and prepare for a bumpy ride.
I warily hitched up my belt to wade into Kody and Hill’s story. I was well aware she was a hot mess times ten and it was never so evident as getting her point of view in this book. I thought I was prepared and would be able to handle it to get the story. I really wanted to see her heal and get over what was separating her from a man worthy to be trusted and her family who stayed loyal and understanding through her life and had even grown more so with her brother’s new loving relationships with their womenfolk.
The truth is without Hill’s narration and Hill’s strong presence, her family, and the ongoing series arc plot, I probably would have set this book aside. The author’s writing and the way she wrote her characters, relationships, and the surrounding story were just as fab as the first book.
But, back to the elephant in the book. From a technical perspective, Kody’s character and her story are amazing. I was awed by the genuineness and vibrant woman who stormed into the first book and stayed larger than life in her own. She is fully fleshed out and her flaws blaze forth as bright as her, at first, few redeeming qualities. The author achieved the quintessential flawed heroine that comes straight out of real life and there is not a whiff of soft romantic gestures or swoon around her. The fact is Kody is one of those difficult people and isn’t easy to get close to because she is prickly and closed off even while being a blustery loud mouth who struts her style and her stuff. Reckless about her own life and not giving a care about others half the time though she wasn’t lacking in heart or generosity when she gave a couple downtrodden people jobs and rooted hard for her brothers’ relationships.
I’m going to rant for a bit to explain why I had deep concerns about this heroine even though part of me aches for her and could appreciate her in the end so turn aside or skip down if you must.View Spoiler » Kody needed to rein in her impulses, grow up, and stop using the excuses of her background to justify her behavior. Her emotional maturity was stunted and hadn’t developed much beyond an angry teen.
For Hill’s part, I could only think he a hero complex all his life. First, a brother who had major mental health issues that he had to raise and care for when their parents were too busy fighting and looking after their own interests to care that they had kids. Then, he nobly and silently, stands aside for his brother and backs away when he feels he might act on his feelings and thus betraying his brother’s trust with the girl they both love. Hill takes all the fury and vitriol, Kody unfairly publichally flings at him while floundering behind her tough gal act.
Her thinking that Hill, and him thinking it, too, that he had to be her 24/7 support and security blanket even though she took on his brother knowing Aaron was messed up made me frustrated. She chose. Hill is not obligated to put his whole life on hold because his brother needed help especially when Hill tried to get him into professional help and Aaron refused. Aaron didn’t want to get treatment or get better and he’s an adult now with all his cognitive abilities intact. Aaron’s fault not Hill’s. She never laid all her problems at her older brothers’ feet or blamed them for not jumping in when things got even worse for Aaron or even Aaron’s parents who were as bad as her own dad so why just Hill? Duh, Kody! And that would have given her the answer to why Hill had to back off if just once over the years she had stopped to think instead of let her emotions rage.
Her jumping in bed with the outlaw bikers just so she can keep her bar afloat, but won’t take legit loans from her brothers struck me again as immature and no ability to think through consequences. Forcing Case, her sheriff brother, to either arrest his own baby sister that he practically raised or turn a blind eye to her illegal activities knowing how hard Case has had to work for years to live down his dad’s tarnished rep as the sheriff and prove he is a good cop (who can lose his job in a heartbeat b/c the position is voted in each term) is unconscionable in someone who claims to love her brother.
And, then there was her hot temper that led to physical violence including hitting the hero three times when he neither said nor did anything to bring it on. I don’t care that she didn’t do any permanent damage because he’s a big guy. She’s abusive and has anger management issues. These events that made up her storms of anger do not get followed by remorse or apology though she is self-aware that she is acting out. One of her moments came when she abused Hill’s trust, stormed into the middle of his investigation, and assaulted his witness right in front of the lead investigating officer. Like with her brother, she’s stomping on the man’s career without a thought or apology and seems to expect him to look the other way and not arrest her for assault or hindering the case then and later when she confesses to the illegal stuff she has going with the bikers. Yes, the romance pair do settle their past, but this stuff? It was swept under the rug- well, that last example Hill did make her face her mistake and fix it or lose him.
Her actions and inner turmoil reminded me of children I worked with who were diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder and the more severe Conduct Disorder which is part of why I was concerned just as much as frustrated by Kody. However, she does turn it around somewhat after the half-way point though I never did feel easy about her rapid about face.
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So, the romance itself. Naturally, it takes more than half the book before any signs of actual romance take place and whew boy do this pair steam things up when they finally do cut loose. I will say that Kody really impressed me a few times after I’d all but given up on her. When she stepped up to be honest with herself about her feelings for Hill, she was careful with him. She came clean and had a hard conversation before starting anything lasting with him because she knew that he was vulnerable when it came to his feelings for her. She was so great about letting him set things up to keep her safe and that he had to rush off to work the case. She ended up being as strong and independent as she pretended to be back at the beginning of the book, but this time it was real. I thought that was beautiful how the author brought out that nuance about Kody.
Now, I can’t wait to get Shot’s story after that big ending involving a certain stiff and stodgy doctor and the charismatic biker.
So, this was a book I have mixed feelings about, but no doubt that it was a book I am so glad I got the chance to read. The writing was abso-fab, the characters larger than life in all their complexities, the sexy romance was hotter than a firecracker and just as explosive, and the ongoing suspense has me hooked in. I can heartily recommend the book/series.
My thanks to Forever for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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