Wednesday, June 19, 2013

TBR Review: Unraveling the Past by Beth Andrews

June's theme for the TBR Challenge is books by RITA Award winners or nominees. Believe it or not, this was a tough category for me. I had more books in my TBR by RITA Award winners and/or nominees than expected and couldn't decide whose book to read! Then with Father's Day on Sunday, my time to decide ran out, so I chose a short book, Unraveling the Past by Beth Andrews. However, that was such a quick read that I found time to pick up His Wife for One Night by Molly O'Keefe, and Stand In Wife by Karina Bliss -- both really enjoyable reads too! This always happens to me when I pick up a Harlequin Romance, I can't stop at one! The good news? I cleared out three books from my TBR in one great swoop! But, going back to my TBR review, here it is:

Unraveling the Past by Beth Andrews (RITA Award Winner 2010 for A Not-So-Perfect Past)

This story is the beginning of a series about the Sullivan sisters, Layne, Tori, and Nora. This book covers a romance for the eldest sister, Layne, introduces the Sullivan family, and much more.

I found Unraveling the Past to be a bit ambitious. It has a romance at the center of the story, but the focus is stretched thin as Andrews also incorporates a cold case murder mystery connected to the Sullivan family. Along with the mystery and developing romance, there is a storyline about the hero's teenage niece. Jess has some serious mommy issues that parallel Layne's. Issues having to do with abandonment and neglect that lead both characters to doubt or not accept love when it is freely given. Mind you, I think that Andrews ties these threads together well. The mystery is used to bring the hero and heroine together, and the niece's issues allow the heroine to see her own, however as a result, the romance suffers from lack of focus -- the niece's thread in particular takes a lot of that focus away from the romance.

The hero of this piece Chief of Police Ross Taylor finds himself caught in a rather awkward situation. His attitude about justice and discipline is black and white, leaving little wiggle room for human error or understanding. This attitude makes the relationship with his troubled teenage niece a nightmare, and his attraction for Assistant Chief Layne Sullivan further complicates matters, particularly while the murder investigation takes place. Ross is not the most sensitive of men and a rather frustrating character until almost the very end. Layne is an accomplished woman with a strong personality she utilizes to hide secrets and vulnerable spots.

The initial relationship between Ross and Layne is hostile and prickly with an underlying attraction that neither acknowledges. As the story moves along, the attraction grows until once together, Ross and Layne steam up the sheets and then some! The deep feelings for each other, the love, needed a bit more cooking in order to work for me. What I did like very much is Andrews' handling of the storyline about Ross' niece Jess. Ross is irritating when unbending, but I found myself liking his very real frustrations with a troubled teenager in this novel -- he was very human in those moments. The love and care behind his irritating reactions to his niece, and his willingness to do what is right made me care for Ross.

It is unfortunate that the two sisters as secondary characters are not likable or interesting enough to make me run and buy their romances. However, I would love to find out if Andrew Sullivan and Ross' niece Jess end up together in the future, and of course, who doesn't want to know the resolution to a murder mystery? I want to know if I'm right in guessing whodunit!

June 2013 - Lovely RITA 
Category: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Truth About the Sullivans, #1
Publisher/Release Date: Harlequin/June 1, 2012
Grade: B-

Visit Beth Andrews here.

ETA: CLARIFICATION NOTE: My review is of a book by a RITA award winning author. This book by Beth Andrews did not win a RITA.


  1. I hate when that happens, you don't really like the first book in series, but you have to keep reading because you want find out what happens to a secondary character in the following books.

    1. Hi Lynne. This book was pretty much a mixed bag for me. It was good, but I felt the romance was shortchanged. But yes! I hate when I have to read the rest of the books for the mystery.

      I'm hoping that because Andrews will change my mind about Tori and Nora, and their books will turn out to be great. :)

  2. I may have this one lying around somewhere in the digital TBR. I did read her RITA winner - A Not So Perfect Past - and really enjoyed it a lot. The heroine is....complicated. She's such a doormat her abusive ex-husband LEFT HER (!!). Which sounds really icky - but it's a great example of a romance with a strong focus on the "heroine's journey."

  3. Wendy, actually I have another book by Andrews in my TBR and when I checked it happens to be the second book of this series!

    Yes, I read A Not-So-Perfect Past back when it won the RITA and enjoyed it too. I really liked the hero in that book and the heroine's growth was worth the read. I think that book is the reason I loaded my Kindle with so many books by Andrews at the time and later on.


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