Thursday, March 22, 2018

Unraveled by Lauren Dane

The sharpest ache comes from wanting what you think you can't have…

Maybe Dolan has lived independent, free-spirited and unattached since leaving home at sixteen. Whiskey Sharp, Seattle's sexy vintage-styled barbershop and whiskey bar, gave her a job—and a reason to put down roots. Cutting hair by day, losing herself drumming in a punk rock band by night, she's got it good.

But a longtime crush that turns into a hot, edgy night with brooding and bearded Alexsei Petrov makes it a hell of a lot better.

Maybe's blunt attitude and carnal smile hooked Alexsei from the start. Protecting people is part of his nature and Maybe is meant to be his… even if she doesn't know it. Yet. He can't help himself from wanting to protect and care for her.

But Maybe's fiery independent spirit means pushing back when Alexsei goes too far. Still, he's not afraid to do a little pushing of his own to get what he wants—her in his life, and his bed, for good. Maybe's more intoxicating than all the liquor on his shelf… and he's not afraid to ride the blade's edge to bind her to him.

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Book 1
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I used to read Lauren Dane back in the day, and I was curious enough to want to try out this series. I always found it easy to fall into the story – addictive.

I need to be honest, and this has nothing to do with the plot itself, I had a hard time in the beginning of the novel connecting. By 25%, I still wasn't invested whatsoever. It felt as if there was a book prior, as if the reader should understand who these people were, and their past experiences. Not only was I slightly confused, hoping a little light would be shed soon, for some odd reason I was reading the novel inside my head in a flat tone – both narrators sounding exactly the same, the diction and author's voice melding into the same tone, which was amazing as one had an accent and was bilingual. Their inner monologues truly were similar.

Frankly, I wasn't hooked, and I struggled to connect. One of the biggest issues was the heroine's name. Maybe. While this is cute, it's a nightmare when reading, especially when a sentence begins with Maybe (not her name, but the actual word MAYBE) this causes confusion, with the reader torn from the story to translate the true meaning of the sentence. Through 300+ pages, my brain never did the transition of the word MAYBE being a name, especially when the word 'maybe' was used in its natural context.

Now onward to the review.

The first quarter of the book is told, not shown, with a lot of backstory given. It wasn't an organic flow where the reader learned alongside the narrators. The narrators had a large backstory to tell, and they inner monologued it all in a storytelling fashion.

Maybe once said something about a kidnapping, in a way like I (the reader) should know what she meant by that (while inside Maybe's mind). Offhanded, "After the kidnapping." I had no idea what she meant, and another large portion of the novel flew by and I still didn't know what she meant by that. Same with what happened to Rachel.

This type of writing style was not what I remember Lauren Dane writing. The ease and flow weren’t there, combined with the stumbling block of her name.

I loved the setting of Whiskey Sharp, a barbershop that serves alcohol in the evening. Very hipster and innovative The Russian family. Alexsei is gruff, exacting, an alpha male, and Dane paints quite the picture of the man inside readers' minds.

Maybe was meant to be fun, chatty, yet her inner monologue was dry and hopeless – it didn't mesh together. Is she a survivor? An eternal victim? A martyr? Or the chatty fun girl?

Maybe and Alexsei have known each other for two years, so the readers miss out on two years' worth of flirty, bonding interaction. They're already friends, already know each other – however, the reader knows neither of them, so we miss out on that 'learning' period as they get to know each other with the reader along for the ride. The reader is told.

Maybe's family was an added frustration that completely overpowered the entire novel, especially the romance – why they loved Rachel and not Maybe, and it dragged without explanation for the bulk of the novel. Maybe acted as a martyr with low self-esteem. If Rachel truly loved Maybe, she would have told her parents it's either both of us or neither – you don't treat my sister like you do. So, I lost respect for Rachel for allowing this toxic dynamic to continue on. (Rachel was the oldest sister, watching her parents be abusive to her sister in the now. Yes, Rachel is fighting her own demons, but I will not give her a pass as being an enabler when it comes to abusing the one person who puts her first.) Maybe was always sacrificing herself for Rachel. "We'll go to Thanksgiving so you can spend time with the very people who are abusive to me." I'm sorry, but that's illogical, and it made me dislike Rachel too, no matter what has happened to her. A survivor would not condone victimizing others, especially when we're told Rachel and Maybe put each other first, yet it's shown as Rachel using her past as an excuse not to actually put Maybe first.

I felt as if there were many threads being shown, with the focus not on Maybe and Alexsei, and their relationship suffered from it. It was chaotic and all over the place as future books were set up, as if those books were more important than the one being told. The narrators were being overshadowed by others' stories.

There was so much going on beneath the surface and in the past, that I honestly believe the book should have been written earlier, so the reader could have experienced it all, instead of just being told what happened. Or, perhaps, Rachel's book should have come first, so Maybe could have had a story to call her own during her narration.

This being the romance genre, the focus is generally on the romance, the couple as they go against the odds. Even the steamy scenes felt tucked in there – the chemistry the couple felt outside the bedroom didn't transfer to inside the bedroom. They knew each other for two years, years we didn't see as a reader, and it was a foregone conclusion they would get together, so the author concentrated on setting up future books instead.

With everything going on with the past and present abuse, and Rachel's issues, Alexsei's story with the ex and the family just felt inconsequential. He and his family are absolute perfection (quite literally) and Maybe's family is the worst (quite literally), with no balance.

Overshadowed is the best word for it all.

This was Rachel's prequel, as told by Maybe.

The book just... ends. A cliffhanger. Nothing has concluded. But, get this... it's new narrators, when Maybe's story is incomplete. Rachel. To be honest, I have the next in the series, but I'm not sure if I care to read it.

Mary Jo☆☆☆
I struggled with this book. The first third of the book seemed to drag and I felt lost much of the time.

The heroine's nickname "Maybe" is cute and all, but it’s also a word that is used frequently in books and I never did get to use to it being a proper name. We didn't even get an explanation of the nickname until close to the end of the book.

The romance between Alexsei and Maybe is a solid one. Friends-to-lovers at its best, it’s all the other drama that seemed to slow the book down at times.

On many levels I really enjoyed this book – but I cannot believe that the author thought it was a good idea to call the lead "Maybe." Really, it was a significant problem for me – and even the reason she is called that is not very funny. I read fairly quickly and having to determine whether the Maybe at the beginning of a sentence was the person or just Maybe became incredibly annoying, as it slowed everything down. Trying to discount that annoyance, I also felt that I was late to the party and had missed a number of previous books. Gregori and Wren; Cora, Finlay and their mother; Rachel's life in the FBI; all of these seemed to be background knowledge that I felt I was missing.

I liked the Russian family angle, the importance of food and family. It set up the differences with the situation that Maybe and Rachel faced with their parents. I was very confused by the level of support that it was inferred that Rachel needed, yet she seemed to be functioning fine. But I could understand how protective Maybe was, even if it was unhealthy. Whiskey Sharp is a great idea for a venue, and the scenes in the bar/barbershop gave a good vibe to the place.

Alexsei was pretty much perfect, in almost every way – Rada was maybe his one failing, and the use of Russian in front of Maybe. I appreciated the care he took, and how he recognised the needs she had and held himself back too.

We are given some pretty big hints as to whose story we will get next, and I do hope that Rachel's story makes more sense of Maybe's because the story ends inconclusively in many ways, other than her relationship.

Avid Reader☆☆☆☆
M/F Romance
Triggers: Click HERE to see Avid Reader’s review on Goodreads for trigger warnings.

Maybe is a fantastic character. She is confident, honest, blunt, sassy, kind, gentle, and sexy. She knows what she wants out of life and isn't afraid to go and get it. Despite her past, she knows that looking forward is the only way to keep going. She has a sister whom she adores and tries to help through a tough recovery, and she has family who love her unconditionally. What she doesn't have are parents who understand her, love her, or support her.

Maybe's parents were a thorn throughout this book. I was unable to feel an ounce of sympathy towards them in this story and found them to be so annoying that I got angry at them – rightfully so! They are horrible people!

Alexsei is the calm silent type. He notices Maybe for a while before gathering his own courage to ask her out. When he is finally finished with his fiancée, he goes through a slew of women, all in front of Maybe. I thought that this was a strange dynamic, as if he had been attracted to her in the beginning, why the need to be with so many different women? It made his character a little hard to believe or even like.

At times, this story dragged for me. Alexsei and Maybe have great chemistry, but their overall relationship was not very organic. While they did have some great scenes, I think that these two seemed more like friends who slept together until the very end.

I did like how Alexsei understood Maybe's desire to protect her sister. Along with Alexsei's awesome aunt and strange mom, his family meant a lot to him. Both characters had a lot of family drama in this book.

Overall, it was a good story about loving yourself, finding someone to love you, and moving forward in life without fear.

This was an okay read for me – it took a while to get into, there was a lot of skimming at the beginning, but once the hero and heroine hookup, the pace changes.

Maybe is a hairdresser at a barbershop working for Alexsei Petrov. Maybe and Alexsei start off as good friends, but Maybe has been nursing a crush since first laying eyes on him. Alexsei is a bit of a manwhore and when Alexsei and Maybe are finally single at the same time, they fall in bed together and a budding relationship begins.

I’d give this book a solid five stars in the sexy/steamy department for sure. I just didn’t love the pace of the plotline at the beginning, and on a more random note, Maybe’s name made it confusing to read sometimes. That aside, I still found myself laughing out loud on more than once occasion and I appreciated the pace of the book from about 40% on so, I’m giving a solid three stars, but I probably won’t be reading further into the series.

Lauren Dane is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over fifty novels and novellas across several genres. She lives in the Northwest with her patient husband and three wild children.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Unraveled (Whiskey Sharp #1) by Lauren Dane to read and review.

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