But Everything I Left Unsaid blew all of my expectations right from the start, when we meet Annie McKay, who has just escaped from her abusive husband in the dead of night, dyed her hair, and set up camp in a trailer park. Her first day there, she notices a cellphone left in the trailer. When it rings, Dylan is on the other line. Dylan wants the person who lives in that trailer to keep an eye on another resident in the trailer park—but almost immediately, Dylan and Annie’s relationship becomes more than a simple business transaction.
I love damaged main-characters, and Everything I Left Unsaid offers up two doozies in Dylan and Annie. Dylan is a wealthy recluse, with a past that has shut him down. We find out some of Dylan’s secrets, but this book focuses more on Annie’s escape from domestic abuse, and her gradual acceptance of her own body and her own mind. It’s even written cleverly in dual perspectives, with Annie in first person and Dylan in third person. It’s clear that the sequel, The Truth About Him, will give us more of Dylan’s side of the story.
The first person does seem much more immediate and urgent in this book, so I’m not sure the style is working perfectly. But Annie’s point of view shines in this novel, and we feel her struggle to become the assertive woman she’d like to be after having been beaten down and isolated for most of her life. We feel her struggle to understand that the world isn’t black and white—her discovery that not all pain is “bad pain,” and that it’s okay to be attracted to the darkness in people. It’s eye-opening and refreshing that Dylan isn’t the perfect gentleman antithesis to Annie’s husband, but instead is also a violent man who has done bad things. Our hearts are plucked out and put back in again as we watch Annie struggle to come to terms with what she likes about Dylan, and as she struggles to accept help, but not so much help that she’ll once again lose control over her life.
Dylan, over the phone, is exactly what Annie needs: someone who enjoys when she says no—who encourages her to say no—and who is completely refreshed by her new, curious foray into her own sexuality. He and Annie don’t meet in person for a while, but that distance seems to be exactly what the both of them and the reader need to feel in tune with their emotional states. I do wish we had understood a little more of Dylan’s turmoil in this novel. We find out some secrets about his past that we expect to lead to intense moments when the two meet (for fear of spoilers, Dylan has physical scars), but unfortunately I found his reveals—and Annie’s reactions to them—to be anticlimactic in this novel.
But because of his flaws, Dylan is a swoon-worthy romance hero, who seems to need only a sigh over the phone to know just what will bring Annie out of her skin. It would be easy to get lost in the carnality of some of Dylan’s requests for Annie—such as visiting a strip club, and touching herself while she’s there—but through it all the reader feels Annie’s open wonder at discovering what she does and doesn’t like, and so I found myself enjoying more of the voyeuristic scenes than I would have expected. And it’s not the sounds or sight of sex that Annie is attracted to, but the desperate desire that she is anxious to experience in her own life. I really enjoyed the way thoughts of sex were portrayed in this novel. Annie reads her first dirty book, and then is confused and overwhelmed that she’s turned on by it. Reading through her eyes is like rediscovering sexuality, innocent and dirty at the same time.
When Dylan and Annie finally get together in person, the results are explosive and hot, hot, hot! The climactic parts of the book were a little unnecessarily infused with meaningful conversation fragments, and some of the emotion in the ending scenes rang false. But after the cliffhanger ending—one that the reader might guess is coming—I have no choice but to dive into the sequel!
Everything I Left Unsaid is a 2-book series. The sequel, The Truth About Him, is on sale on November 24.