Review: Unforgiven by Anne Calhoun


Unforgiven by Anne Calhoun
Berkley (June 4, 2013)

Rating: B
Heat: Hot

Heroine: Marissa Brooks – Tough Girl, Dreams of Sailing 
Hero: Adam Collins – Marine, Unforgiven 




As a teenager, Adam Collins had a penchant for being reckless and loved to race. He also fell hard for a girl named Marissa Brooks. Their relationship was never defined, but it was passionate and wildly intense. Yet they never went any further than their exploration of each other due to Adam being scared of unexpected pregnancy. He substituted his sexual frustration with drinking and reckless acts and, one night Adam took it too far while drinking. He challenged his friend to a bike race, who ended up crashing his bike and dying on impact. Adam is desperate to atone for his mistake, so he signs up for the Marines in place of the boy who lost his life, and leaves Marissa behind. He then starts dating Delaney, a town girl who was the complete opposite of Marissa. They got engaged but, because of complicated reasons, broke up. Eventually, Delaney starts dating Keith, Adam’s best friend, and now she’s marrying him.

Adam has come back to Walkers Ford to live after being in the Marines for twelve years. He plans to attend graduate school for architecture and to stay for good this time. He’s also back to serve as Keith’s best man. While Adam doesn’t have any feelings towards Delaney, it’s still awkward to be in their wedding. Their wedding is being held at Brookhaven, Marissa’s family home, where she’s put blood, sweat, and tears into renovating it. She loves this home and has had a difficult time letting it go… but dreams of sailing around the world someday.

When Adam and Marissa meet again, neither of them expected to pick up where they left off, but after twenty minutes in each other’s company, they crash together with all the pent up desire and passion they’ve always felt for one another. Even though the chemistry between them sizzles, they have both changed. Adam is not the same boy from years ago and Marissa is not the same girl. Marissa doesn’t want to get back involved with Adam for fear that even though he says he’s staying, he will leave again. She doesn’t want her heart broken again. But, with Adam’s persistence, she keeps finding herself in his arms. They form a passionate love affair, but what they have goes much deeper than just sex.

Adam, our tortured hero, has never forgiven himself for his friend’s death. The Marines gave him the discipline and duty he desperately needed to help bury his guilt and emotions - which is why Delaney was a safe bet at the time. Marissa made him feel everything while he didn’t feel anything with Delaney. He’s brave enough to fight for his country, but facing his past scares him. Adam came home to make amends with his past, but wasn’t expecting to open new doors to a more hopeful future with Marissa.

“You were like you always were, unavoidable. Undeniable. The siren call I couldn’t resist.”

Marissa is tough. She’s resilient to the harsh rumors the town whispers about her. She’s very independent and a stubborn hard worker. She’s always lived in Walker’s Ford, but you can tell she feels restless. She wants to sail around the world, but her loyalty to Brook Haven keeps her there. Brook Haven is imbedded in her soul. It may mean a lot to Marissa, but it’s also like a safety blanket that she needs to wean herself off of. Adam encourages her to follow her dream to sail. He shows her that she can explore her dreams if she just takes a chance. Whether she decides to let go of her family home and spread her wings is the question.

“For Adam she would give everything. He coaxed longing to life like flame in a campfire, kept it simmering until the edges of her skin dissolved into the space around her.”

One of the most interesting elements about this story, that really stood out for me, is how the author wrote a heroine who is more experienced than the hero when it comes to sex. Even as adults, Marissa’s had more sexual partners than Adam. I like how the author wrote the hero and heroine this way. You don’t usually get a hero who isn’t just as or more experienced than the heroine too often in a romance. But Adam’s inexperience doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Oh, no. The man has skilled fingers and a hot mouth. The heat and steam between them is fierce. Combustible.

When I first started this story, I really didn’t like it. I had a difficult time with the pace and the mood this story put me in. This story has a melancholy feel to it and it remains that way throughout most of the story. But, even with my issues, I began to notice how elegant and smooth Anne Calhoun’s writing is. She has a way with emotional words that flow seamlessly. And the more I read, the more I started to see the story more clearly. This story is thought-provoking, smart, rich in description, quiet, intense, and all the characters are well-developed and complex.

The title Unforgiven makes a lot of sense once you get to the root of the storyline. Unforgiven is a story about second chances, forgiveness, and acceptance. It’s about moving on and being happy rather than living in the past. Adam and Marissa are two emotionally broken people who have lost their way in life. They both struggle internally for different reasons. Because they are so closed off, this flaw keeps them from admitting to each other how they truly feel. It took them a while to come to their senses, but eventually their emotional journey brings them together. I’m looking forward to reading to the next book in this series, Jaded.


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