Author: Ruth Clampett
Publisher: Clampett Studio
Length: 310 Pages
Category: Contemporary, Drama
At a Glance: I have a lot of feelings about this story. If I had to put a feeling into words, perhaps I would say “overwhelmed”.
Reviewed By: Lindsey
Blurb: Would you live a lie to hold onto the one you love?
Dean and Jason are best friends, like brothers since boyhood, now architecture students and college roommates. They’ve always had each other’s back, but when one walks in on the other with another man, everything changes. How do you explain to your best friend that he’s the one you’ve always wanted, that until now your life has been a lie?
Desperation and shame are two dirty words that run through Jason’s veins. He carries the scars from a wayward priest who stole his innocence and left him shattered. Meanwhile for years he’s watched Dean pursuing woman after woman, as his own heart slowly breaks.
When their world blows apart, they learn the powerful bond between them has more fire than either understood. Can two broken souls find the light in their darkness and come together to make a whole, or will sins of the past be forever unforgiven?
***This standalone is a M/M love story with graphic sex. Trigger warning.
Review: I’m not certain I can say I enjoyed this story much—which is not necessarily a negative in this particular case. In fact, I have a lot of feelings on the whole. If I had to put a feeling into words, perhaps I would say “overwhelmed”.
Let me start by saying, beware of the trigger warning. It’s there. In. Your. Face. The author pulls no punches. I don’t really find the topic necessarily a trigger for myself, but I will be upfront and say I was more than a little uncomfortable when the past came bursting forth on the page in front of me. I can only imagine the havoc it could wreak on someone else’s emotions if they find that topic particularly difficult.
Also, this story is far from a sweet romance. The first half of the book I loathed Dean. He was a straight up a**hole, and selfish beyond belief. Once again, the author seemed to really explore the dark places in the characters’ heads, which are not pretty, often offensive, and difficult to consume. I honestly disliked the first half of the book because I just couldn’t stand being in Dean’s head (and since the story is told from dual POVs, it was about half the time). Dean didn’t seem to like being in his own head much either, so at least there is that. Jason was sweet and lost and I wanted to give him a hug. He was so scared and confused, and Dean’s treatment of him made my blood boil.
Honestly, the fact that I really couldn’t stand the first half of this book for the mere fact the characters brought such visceral reactions out of me is a good thing. I think. It means they seemed real to me, and I connected, though, admittedly, in a very not good way with Dean. It didn’t make it any easier to get through, though. I didn’t really get the feeling of connection between the two for a while. See, the story starts pretty much when the crap hits the fan, and Dean learns the truth about his BFF, Jason. So the super great friendship they had going on for years? I didn’t get a feel for it in the beginning, and found it beyond difficult to see them being friends at all.
Thank goodness for the second half of the book, where I finally got to feel the chemistry between the two of them more and—wonder of wonders—I started actually seeing what JJ had seen in Dean all those years they had been friends. The problem is the book still wasn’t really something pleasurable. Entertaining, perhaps, but definitely not an easy read. Jason is a straight-up mess. His past memories and secrets can’t be held in anymore, now that Dean has seen the truth. Jason is all over the place emotionally due to his past abuse, and the choices he makes while dealing with the surfaced recollections create a heck of a lot of drama. All the while, Dean has started coming to terms with his feelings for Jason and is trying to be there for him, but still tripping up along the way and not really understanding the extent of Jason’s turmoil. I wanted them to catch a break, but just as they were getting one, the world spun out on them again.
Though the story wraps up on a happier note, the journey to get there took a lot out of me, emotionally. If you are a reader looking for a feel good love story, this definitely won’t fit the bill. But it is a love story, just not a pretty or sweet one. It’s a love story that is overflowing with angst, drama, and extremely flawed characters fighting to figure themselves out and how to be together. When they eventually do, it is very satisfying.
You can buy Unforgiven here: