EVERYTHING I LEFT UNSAID (Everything I Left Unsaid #1) by Molly O’Keefe is a fascinating and suspenseful erotic novel about a woman who ran away from her dangerous, abusive husband, and becomes involved with a dangerous, mysterious stranger, whose seductive voice introduces her to dark and forbidden pleasures. The novel’s eroticism is a compelling slow burn rather than an electrifying heat, and the romance is secondary to the heroine’s self-discovery–her quest for self-reliance, validation, and the right to be safe in her own home and to be treated as a human being. Her dark stranger is a catalyst for her sexual awakening and transformation from fear and dependency to self-awareness, courage, and freedom.
After Annie runs away from her husband, she moves to a trailer park in another state. She has barely settled in when a cell phone left behind by the previous occupant of her trailer rings. The mysterious voice on the line belongs to Dylan, who had hired the owner of the phone to watch her neighbor Ben. Annie lies about her name, while Dylan withholds his reasons for surveilling Ben. It is obvious to both of them that they are keeping secrets, and it is that sense of the forbidden that initially attract them to each other.
Since Annie has never been with a man besides her husband, she has never experienced the desires Dylan awakens in her. During their phone calls, he entices her to explore her sexuality and challenges her to step outside her comfort zone. Eventually, the phone calls are not enough for her. She wants more; she wants him. When danger arrives at the trailer park and Dylan gets her to the safety of his fortress of a mountain home, they are finally together in the flesh. Secrets are revealed, threatening their tenuous yet deeply intimate connection. The novel ends in a tense cliffhanger in which Annie’s very life is threatened.
I liked how the author paced the tension with precise flashbacks and glimpses into the characters’ pasts and inner lives, and built a dark and vivid atmosphere. I liked how Annie made friends at the trailer park and made up her own mind about Ben and Dylan. And I liked how Annie found her voice and how Dylan made her feel safe and wanted. Every time they were on the phone, he asked her if she was okay.
The narration was a bit passive at the start, but as Dylan’s identity began to reveal itself, I became more invested in the story. Annie’s sections were told in first person, whereas Dylan’s sections were told in third person to enhance his enigma. Though the novel ends on a cliffhanger, readers won’t have to wait too long for the sequel, which releases in November. They can take comfort knowing that Annie is no longer alone, that Dylan will be there for her always. I have no doubt the sequel will fulfill readers’ hopes and expectations.
*I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.