Monday, July 21, 2014

REVIEW: UNSPOKEN ~ DEE HENDERSON

Ruth Bazoni is the most famous kidnapping victim in recent Chicago history.  When she was sixteen, Ruth was kidnapped along with her twin sister, Tabitha, for ransom.  When the kidnappers made it clear that only one of the girls would be released, Ruth sacrificed herself by kicking her sister out of the van, ensuring that Tabitha returned home safely.  What followed was the darkest four years of Ruth’s life; four years of captivity, experiencing trauma so severe her mind has blocked most of it out.  Following Ruth’s rescue she decided to change her name and start a new life.  Charlotte Graham has never spoken about those four years – not to her family, not to her doctors, not to the police.  The reason for her silence is more disturbing than anyone could have guessed…

Bryce Bishop is a coin dealer bored with his life.  He could never have guessed that God would answer his prayers by bringing Charlotte Graham into his life.  Charlotte has inherited a coin collection worth millions, and following the guidance of the only two people she trusts, she has elected Bishop Chicago to buy her collection of coins.  The process of buying Charlotte’s coins will take months, yet Bryce has a sinking feeling only a few months in Charlotte’s life won’t be enough.  He is fascinated by her, intrigued by her and definitely interested in her, but while Charlotte is perfectly cordial she rebuffs his every attempt to move their relationship past friendship.  He doesn’t know anything about her and a background check delivers the bare minimum.  All he knows is that the wonderful woman now part of his life has vowed to remain single for life.  Supported by those closest to her, Bryce slowly and carefully attempts to prove to Charlotte that she can trust him. Maybe, just maybe, Bryce can be the catalyst that finally helps Charlotte heal.

Those four years not only destroyed Ruth’s innocence, trust in men and any chance of a normal life, it also badly damaged her relationship with God.  Charlotte does believe in God, but she has trouble accepting that He loves her, given that He allowed those men to hurt her.  She has an even bigger issue with the fact that God would have been willing to forgive her kidnappers if they were so inclined to ask; and therein lies Bryce’s challenge: Can he convince Charlotte that she is not only worthy of love, but that she is loved – by God and by him?


Unspoken by Dee Henderson is categorised as romantic suspense, yet personally I would not quite classify it as either romance or suspense.  It is essentially a love story, yes, but there is very little romance between Bryce and Charlotte, given Charlotte's past.  There is also zero suspense.  The last 50 pages or so might lean toward that direction, but as none of the characters are ever in any danger, it falls flat.  There is very little in terms of action to keep the reader turning the pages and it all boils down to investment in the story and the characters.

While the story is solid and the writing is good, there are several things about the book that I don’t like.  First of all, Bryce is the protagonist of the story more than Charlotte.  The book is written from his point of view and generally I find it difficult to connect with a book where the POV is solely from the hero’s perspective - I prefer the POV to be from the heroine’s perspective as it is obviously easier for me to connect with a female.  I enjoy dual POV’s, but I don’t particularly like for a book to be solely from the hero’s POV.  Don’t get me wrong, Bryce is by no means a disappointing hero.  He is a wonderfully patient man of God and absolutely perfect for Charlotte, but this book desperately needed at least a few chapters written from Charlotte’s point of view.  While her story is told through others and Charlotte becomes a very sympathetic character, the reader is not given the opportunity to make a connection with her.  Even though she is present throughout most of the book, she is very much a secondary character, and all we know about her is what we see through Bryce.  Charlotte has a dark past and is still very much haunted by it, and I almost feel like Henderson took the easy way out by not delving into Charlotte’s psyche. 

I also feel that Unspoken is much, much longer than it needs to be.  There is a lot (probably no less than 150 pages) that could have been cut without affecting the outcome of the story.  I am the first one to admit that details make a book great, but there is such a thing as too much detail.  I now know more about coin collecting than I ever wanted to.  I completely understand that it is the coins that bring Charlotte and Bryce together, but was it really necessary for me to learn the name, size, shape, colour and age of so many coins?  If the coins were somehow integral to the mystery then it might have been understandable, but as it is the coins were just filler.  Too much filler.  In fact, the first half of the book (mostly focusing on the coins) feels like a different book than the second half (the remainder of Charlotte’s inheritance and the resurfacing of her past). 

Paul and Ann Falcon (from Full Disclosure) are secondary characters in Unspoken, and for me there were just too many scenes of the two of them.  I understand why some of the scenes would be necessary considering how everything fit together in the end, but most of their scenes could have been cut without affecting the outcome of the book.

I will say, though, that ultimately all of this added together to make it believable that the events of the book unfold over more than a year.  It certainly feels like a long time, and it all adds to the realistic progression of Bryce and Charlotte’s relationship.
 
The reader is never made privy to the events of those four years of Charlotte’s captivity.  While it is easy enough to draw certain conclusions, I feel that also in this Henderson took the easy way out and cheated her readers.  Twice it is brought up that Charlotte’s friend, Ellie, will tell Bryce some of what happened to Charlotte, but this never happens.  Authors should guard against introducing a topic if they have no intention of following through.  Furthermore, a reporter is writing a book about the kidnapping and while Charlotte gets to read what he writes, the reader does not.  I think Henderson should have spent less time writing about coins and put in more effort into Charlotte’s trauma. 

In recent years there seems to have been a shift in Henderson’s writing style.  Her recent releases just don’t have the same feel to them as her earlier works.  As with Paul and Ann’s ending in Full Disclosure, Unspoken also left me wanting just a little bit more for Bryce and Charlotte.  It seems Henderson now chooses to leave her readers with less than perfect endings – well, I don’t know about you, but I read to escape from too much realism. Give me a happy (if slightly unrealistic) ending any day.  Life is hard – romance novels don’t have to be.  Henderson’s new tendency to leave the characters slightly unfulfilled and the reader slightly unsatisfied sadly makes me weary of reading her future releases. 


Product Information:
Title: Unspoken
Author: Dee Henderson
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Year: 2013
Number of pages: 449
ISBN:0764211714
ISBN-13: 978-0764211713
ASIN: B00DWA69NW

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