Book Review

Unleashed by Lori Borrill


Title: Unleashed
Author: Lori Borrill
Publication Info: Harlequin Blaze November 2008
ISBN: 0373794347
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book CoverIt’s rare that I read a category romance that doesn’t come from Jane, who is the source for all categorical recommendations. But it’s even more rare that she recommends a category to me AFTER I’ve read it and can then reply and say, “OMG. LOVE.”


So I don’t make the mistake of forgetting the plot summary, here you go: California purse designer Jessica Beane is on the cusp of major design fame when she picks up Rick Marshall, a hot cop with murky depths of emotional pain, for a one night stand. Their morning after turns into a road trip from San Francisco to Reno then to Texas, during which she learns to depend on people and trust someone to take care of her, and he learns that moving on to find happiness and joy doesn’t equal betrayal. Plus they have frequent hot sex. Like damn.

In order to appreciate what I enjoyed most about this book, I invite you to eavesdrop on my inner monologue, which is absurdly active when I am reading.

Sarah’s inner monologue: Oh, no. The heroines creepy ass ex-con ex-husband is outside. On a cell phone. Stalking her after he followed her home from the bar at which she totally picked up the hero for a hot one night stand and …. great. She’s going to act like an idiot and not do anything to help herself despite said one-night-stand being a cop. He’s a cop! He’s right there! Go wake him up! Nooooooooo.

Lori Borrill: HA! I thwart your assumption that my heroine is TSTL!

Rick Marshall: (after heroine has explained everything that happened after she ran out of his apartment while he was still sleeping, including creepy-ass ex)

“So let me make sure I understand this.” Rick’s voice was slow and deliberate as he stopped pacing and stood ominously before her. “Your husband—”
“—is released from jail, crosses three state lines in violation of his parole, threatens and harasses you while standing out on the street—” Then he paused and pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. “And not once did you consider waking up the police officer sleeping in the room next to you?”

Sarah’s inner monologue: He calls her on it! He totally calls her on it! Go Hero Dude!

Lori Borrill: But wait… there’s more!

The anger in his voice squeezed her insides.

She swallowed, trying to decide how far back in her lifetime she needed to go to convey the fact that not once had anyone besides her grandmother ever come to her rescue. That no matter how many times her knee-jerk reaction was to believe someone might defend her, her good senses always won over, reminding her that in her life, Jessica Beane could only fully count on Jessica Beane.

Oh sure, her mother had stood up for her on occasion, which usually spurred some sort of fight at home. But whenever a choice had to be made between her daughter and her new husband, Jessie always drew the short straw. The trend started at home and spanned throughout practically every relationship she’d had. So assuming things would be different with a man she’d only just met was too much of a stretch even for her optimistic nature.

Sarah’s inner monologue: Wait, she totally has a valid reason for doing something that was kind of dumb? And it fits with her character, and isn’t some spastic effort to make the character more quirky? It’s… understandable? Sympathetic?

Jesus Flapjack. I can’t handle this kind of blatant stomping on my expectations. They make the book all good and hard to put down and shit.

Sarah to her inner monologue: Shut up and read.

Lori Borrill: Yeah.

Not only was the plot twisty and active and full of unexpected turns, but it kept a level of humor and joy to it, even when the characters were dealing with some painful shit. It could have been maudlin, but the heroine’s “Get up and get over it” attitude paired with the hero’s determination to help people professionally and personally combined with the plot made for a road-trip based romance that was fun, but packed an emotional wallop.

The other part I truly enjoyed was the heroine’s frankness, not only about her own history and the true lows she sank to personally at the hands of shitful people in her life, but about her sexuality and her enjoyment of sex. She likes sex, she’s attracted to Rick, and she has no shame about that. She’s terribly realistic, both as a character and in the way she views her own life: she knows what hard rock bottom is like, and since she’s been there already, facing it again means she knows how to build back herself up again.

But that rock bottom is part of why I can’t give the book an A. Jessica suffers because of the behavior of some people who really ought to have been looking out for her and not their own best interests, and in the end, I didn’t think they’d truly received any kind of come-uppance. Not satisfactorily enough. Yes, I just finished saying that she as a character was very realistic, and certainly there’s only so much she herself can do to these people aside from moving as far away from them as possible, but in the epilogue, it seemed that she’d forgiven or at the least still spoke with one person in particular who had behaved so horribly I was astounded Jessica, as ballsy as she was, would put up with having that person in her life for one more minute.

Of course, that causes me to question what I expect from a happy ending – not only do I want the hero and heroine to have a marvelous ending, but I want the bad guy to get it and get it good. I want people who behave abominably to get handed back to them the full effect of their behavior, or at least a good 60% of it. That might be the true fantasy of romance for me – I fully believe that happiness and romance and healing and hot sex happen to people now, in the past, in the future, on distant planets, in carriages, in cold lakes, for God’s sake, and anywhere in between. I totally buy that and pay retail. But the true fantasy of a romance for me as a reader is the restoration of order and the conclusion of the morality play within the romance narrative, where the good guy gets an orgasm (and the girl too, obviously) and the bad guy gets gloom, despair, agony, pain, and really fiery hemorrhoids.

I of course question whether my expectations – and my inner monologue – are placing unfair demands on the story. After all, Jessica is fabulously real, ballsy, courageous, and unbelievably strong. Should be plenty to be happy about, right? But her apparent continued relationship with relatives who caused her a whole bucket of hurt out of pure selfishness and arrogance causes me to question the overall happiness of her future, which is a shame because Jessica and Rick are a marvelous couple to read about and road trip with. My minor quibble about the ending aside, this book is great big heaping piles of sexy, 75 mph fun.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Vicki says:

    Yeah, I, too, like to see the bad guys get their comeupance in some sort of realistic but satisfying way. Totally forgiving your abusive family, for instance, without addressing the abuse does not cut it for me. BTW, I did have that talk with my mom. I told her that I believed she had done her best but that I had experienced my childhood as abusive. She cried, said she knew she had made mistakes, asked my forgiveness. If I can do that, I don’t see why a romance heroine cannot. 

    Now, if I can only figure out how to have that hot romance sex several times a day….

    clear56, yes, even in romances you need to clear the air

  2. 2
    Lori Borrill says:

    What a great and funny review.  Thanks so much, and I’m thrilled you enjoyed the book.  This completely makes up for the disappointment of discovering that some a-hole stole the light-up alien from our yard last night.  You know, the Halloween decorations we put out for the KIDS?  So trust me, if I should write a despicable character in a future book, say, one who steals Halloween decorations, I will devote an entire chapter to him being taken out back and having the holy-living shit kicked out of him.

  3. 3

    If you want to save the contemporary, start with a Lori Borrill book. 

    I totally agree that everyone should buy and read this excellent book ASAP. 

    Not that I don’t love Erin McCarthy, too.  But if we REALLY want to save the contemporary, it’s up-and-comers like Lori Borrill whom we need to support. 

    Love this book.


  4. 4
    Joanne says:

    Sarah’s inner monologue: He calls her on it! He totally calls her on it! Go Hero Dude!

    Love that in a hero… and the heroine designs handbags & admits to liking sex … love her too… I also love that she forgives and forgets the past, less baggage for her & the reader at the end … so by osmosis I buy the book and become a Lori Borill fan-girl.


    Great review, thanks!

  5. 5
    GrowlyCub says:

    I went and read the excerpt at Amazon and holy smokes, I want to read that book now! Our local Walmart does not carry Blazes any longer, so that means either a trip 80 miles down the road or waiting till can deliver.

    It’s times like these when I envy the Kindle owners, but only till I remember that I much prefer paper books!  Then I envy the folks who have bookstores within easy driving distance…. Grumble, mumble, want NOW…

  6. 6
    tracykitn says:

    Ok, so I know what I’m grabbing in my last-minute bookstore run before the massive road trip we’re starting in about 5 days….WA to GA, me and the hubby, three kids (8, 5 and 3,) one large dog and two cats.  And a shit-load of romances for mommy, ‘cause with the best intentions, I don’t think I’m going to be able to concentrate on anything that involves too much brainpower and attention (like, say, Umberto Eco or Sherri Tepper.)

  7. 7
    SonomaLass says:

    So trust me, if I should write a despicable character in a future book, say, one who steals Halloween decorations, I will devote an entire chapter to him being taken out back and having the holy-living shit kicked out of him.

    Oh, Lori, so sorry to hear that you got your alien stolen!  I know how you feel—last year we had two miniature light-up deer stolen from our front yard, that have been part of our (tasteful!) winter display for years.  I would definitely have given the thief the full out back shit kicking treatment.

    It’s great to have a(nother) strong contemporary recommendation.  As one of the the lucky ones who lives near a bookstore (and one with a long weekend off with the DP coming up), add me to the list of those who will try to SAVE THE CONTEMPORARY with a Lori Borill book

  8. 8
    Silver James says:

    But her apparent continued relationship with relatives who caused her a whole bucket of hurt out of pure selfishness and arrogance causes me to question the overall happiness of her future,…

    There’s a whole host of survivor/victim “ology” at play in the real world with this type of character. It would take someone with more than a minor in psychology to dissect it all, but from personal experience in an emotionally dysfunctional family (thank god there was no physical abuse – just the emotional variety), a child’s need to be loved and accepted by its parents doesn’t fade with adulthood. 60K words just aren’t enough to go there.

    Like everyone else, I’ll have to stick this one on the top of my ever-growing TBR pile. Now if I only had 36 hours in a day…

  9. 9
    Lori Borrill says:

    Okay, Sonomalass, I’ve got to ask.  Is the Sonoma part of Sonomalass Sonoma as in California?  See, I ask because I’m just south of Santa Rosa, and we’re both dealing with stolen holiday decorations, and me is putting 2+2 and getting 4….

    Of course, I have to be pleased that stolen holiday decorations are about the biggest problem I’ve got in my community.  Hubby called the cops out of anger.  The guy was there in 2 minutes, offered to knock on all the neighbors doors if we wanted him to (we passed).  Probably not the kind of response we’d get if we lived in the big city.

  10. 10
    CharmedKim says:

    Great recommendation! I just put this on reserve at B&N.  I haven’t read a Blaze in years and I’m looking forward to this one.

  11. 11
    Elyssa says:

    I am so buying this book!

    That totally sucks about the Alien being stolen.

  12. 12
    Caty M says:

    I haven’t bought a Blaze for months, but I liked the sound of this one so much I’ve ordered it.  Amazon seems to be only source for it in the UK at present, though, so now I have to wait for the postman.  (Come on, Mr Postman.  You want to deliver my parcel very soon, you really do.) 

  13. 13
    Sayuri says:

    Yay!  I am so happy to see Lori getting some love. She (and Sarah Mayberry) are the main reason I have stuck with Blaze.

    I loved Unleashed but Putting It To The Test is my favourite of hers…so far!

    know27. I feel wise.

  14. 14
    Gwen says:

    Danggit.  That TBR isn’t getting any smaller, ladies!  (adds another book to it)

    In real life, the bad guys often don’t “pay the price” for their badness.  Sometimes they get away with it – they’re miserable people, but they’re usually not miserable and incarcerated, sadly.  So, perhaps reality strikes in a romance once again.

  15. 15
    Jen C says:

    I love Blazes, because not only do they have lots of sex, but I don’t think I have ever come across a virgin or a secret baby.  TSTL girls, sure, and one man who threw a gay man out a window (which is what made me throw the book out my own window).  On the whole, I find the books make me happy and I rarely find one that lowers my IQ when I read it.

  16. 16
    GrowlyCub says:

    one man who threw a gay man out a window

    Which author/book was that?  Always good to know what to stay away from!

  17. 17
    Jane says:

    Yep, I totally enjoyed this book. I read two other Borrill books (she’s part of my HQN lightning reviews this Friday) and one think that I totally enjoyed is the normalcy of the characters.  No tycoons, no super models, just kind of regular folks falling in love.

  18. 18
    Lori Borrill says:

    Thanks Jane, and everyone else for your kind words.  I hope you all enjoy the book.  Jen, I love writing Blaze for the same reason you mentioned loving reading them.  I’m afraid I was young and impressionable during the bra-burning 70’s (hear me roar) and am simply not wired to write a passive heroine.  Thank god for Blaze in giving me a place to go.

    I do have a preference for writing regular people, because those are my favorite to read.  Although, in my next project, the heroine is…cough…sort of a Paris Hiltonish-type. (hisssss)  I don’t know why.  I had to do it.  The challenge will be in how to make her likeable, because I’m dying to start her in a place where she’s genuinely spoiled and foolish, then force her to grow up.  I just fear losing people before I get to the grow up part.  Wish me luck. LOL!

  19. 19
    moom says:

    I’ve got this title noted for when I get home and make my monthly Amazon order (living out in the sticks sucks).

    In fact the fact the heroine doesn’t cut out the abusive/no-good people in her life may well make me empathise with her better as in my case it took a Hell of a horrible series of events to cut the abusive relative in my life out and she was only physically abusive the once. She definately sounds like someone I can identify with and a hunky hero who isn’t afraid to inject a note of common sense, too? Awesome!

  20. 20
    Jen C says:

    GrowlyCub, I don’t remember the name of the book (you can bet I gave that one to the USB) but I do remember it was about a manners coach training a Texan cowboy how to behave at a fancy wedding.  She had only had one lover, a stuffy jerk Asian with a small penis (which might not bug me if he was one of many Asians in the Blazes, but to be honest I think he might be the only one I recall).  The Texan threw his gay French dance teacher out the window for daring to… teach him to dance, which involved touching, and would make him a gay Frenchman or something.  WTF.  It was from a series of Blazes called “The Manhandlers”.

    Lori- Thanks for your ocmment.  I have Putting It To the Test sitting in my TBR pile (the Blaze pile, specifically) and I think I might have to move it to the top of the stack.

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