Lou: I’m a late bloomer when it comes to Molly O’Keefe’s books. I’ve heard and read so many great things about her writing but sometimes I arrive very late to the party. Everything I Left Unsaid is probably one of my favourite reads of this year. The setting was a little stark in tone but with so much beauty in journey of the heroine, Annie, in finding refuge and safety, but also in exploring and finding herself after being trapped for so long in a life that was miserable for her. When Annie arrives at the trailer park, instead of seeing ugliness, the first thing she sees is beauty and her hopefulness and her bravery was so damn endearing.
Has: You’re not the only one who is a newbie to Molly O’Keefe’s books, even though I have a few friends who highly recommended her. I wished I picked her books so much earlier than I did. Nonetheless, if I have to pick a first book by O’Keefe then Everything I Left Unsaid is the perfect example to lead me to get more books by her.
I also agree with Lou that this was also one of the best reads that I had this year, and this was a romance that slowly cranked up romantic tension just beautifully. Annie, who arrives at a run-down trailer park, is running away from an abusive husband and finding a new place she can call home. I loved reading Annie’s journey into discovering what real freedom was about. I also liked how she discovers her sexuality and starts to explore different facets of it when she embarks on a slow burn affair with Dylan, who tasks her to look out for a neighbour. I definitely felt that O’Keefe conveyed an amazing way on how the sexual tension was built up via their telephone relationship. It allowed Annie to express herself freely and it also gave interesting insights to Dylan’s character who had a few secrets of his own.
Lou: Though I’m a fan of slow-burn romances, I do like my hero and heroine to meet soonish on the pages but O’Keefe managed to build up a relationship between Dylan and Annie that was rock-solid. My only critique is that I needed a few more phone calls between them to really believe in their instant sexual connection. But that’s a minor quibble as everything else about the book I loved. Dylan and Annie are able to explore with each other under the safety of a phone relationship. Dylan, who has his own past history, is able to open up with Annie and they soon reveal small pieces of themselves while falling deeper into one another. Annie’s life on the trailer park also soon becomes entwined with Dylan when she meets Ben, a man that Dylan says is a very dangerous man. But Annie sees a side of Ben that draws her to him. Kind but grumpy. Giving but also abrupt. She learns to assert herself with Dylan, and starts to build up her strength.
While these two don’t meet until very late on in the book, the sexual tension was so high and incredibly exciting. There’s some lovely scenes in which Annie explores herself with Dylan on the phone to her, and there’s another scene in a strip-club that was super hot.
Has: I never thought that their delay in meeting detracted from the romance or the story. I actually felt that it ratcheted up the tension with each new dare or suggestion that Dylan made Annie do to break out of her chains and inner doubts. I also liked that a lot of the book focussed on the new life that she built around herself. And even though it was not much, it was something that she did on her own and out of the shadows of her past. I think it helped that the writing was stark and authentic in how Annie expressed herself. It really drew me into her story.
The supporting characters, such as Annie’s neighbours and her encounters with them, also helped to expand on Annie’s development. I thought the contrast with her neighbour who was also undergoing a similar abusive relationship provided an interesting parallel, which I also found haunting and sad.
Lou: Yes! O’Keefe created secondary characters that made a huge impact on the page. Tiffany, with her abusive husband, seeing the same haunting look in Annie’s eyes, was very poignant. Then there’s another neighbour who surprised me in so many ways and though they started out as strangers, friendships bloomed and Annie’s strength grew just by having those friendships. Despite Annie blossoming, her feelings for Dylan grow and she wants to see him in the flesh. This doesn’t work for Dylan for his own reasons. We get both POVs with Annie in first and Dylan in third. Dylan’s story is told but it’s mainly through Annie that the emotional connection is formed.
All of the subplots than run through this book weave together into a main plot that delivers Annie to Dylan and oh boy was it a meeting. I couldn’t wait until they saw each other and it wasn’t a disappointment. Annie is hurt and mortified when she learns about Dylan’s identity, and the fact he owns a mountain. She feels that he has played her, has mocked her, and made fun of her. I did think Dylan should have told Annie more about his history earlier on, but Annie kept secrets of her own from Dylan, a big one, that she was married and she was on the run from her abusive marriage.
I did think towards the end when everything was revealed, I didn’t really understand why they thought they could never see each other again. It felt too forced for my liking. Then Annie’s past catches up with her. Dylan’s past is also revealed and Ben’s identity is exposed. The ending is action-packed and leaves things between Dylan and Annie very unsure but it works. It works for these two and I can’t wait to pick up the sequel and to continue their story.
I give Everything I left Unsaid an A
Has: I can understand why they felt their relationship was temporary; they both had fears and didn’t fully entrust or told each other about their pasts. I could see why this book was part of a duology and I have to warn readers that this book ends on a cliffhanger that left me howling, but we were lucky enough to get the arc for the sequel. But I think the title of this book was really fitting because a lot of the emotional elements were unspoken. It was all shown by the actions of the characters, which said a lot more than what was spoken and I loved that! Despite the prose being stark and concise, there was so much being inferred and conveyed and it was rich and vivid with feelings. This was an amazingly heartfelt romance. It was convincing with its love story about two lost and scared people who were imprisoned by their own doubts and fears.
I give Everything I left Unsaid an A-