Review: Whiskey Sharp: Unraveled by Lauren Dane

Reviewed by Sara

Book 1 of Lauren Dane’s Whiskey Sharp series, Unraveled, follows the story of Maybe, a tattooed, punk rock, drummer and hairstylist. She’s a straight shooter, irreverent and blunt, but she’s also highly compassionate and committed to her friends and chosen family. Maybe lives in Seattle with her sister, who has a traumatic past, is estranged from her parents and is ready to take it to the next level with her bearded, tattooed and Russian boss Alexsei.

The characters in Unraveled, both main and background, were great with tons of description and backstory. Maybe, her sister, friends and neighbors are described in a way that makes them jump off the page. They’re multi dimensional and vibrant and the kind of characters that you want to go hang out with.

The plot of Unraveled was where the book really left me wanting. There was a normal level of conflict between Maybe and Alexsei that any new couple with two dominant personalities struggle with as they fall in love and then there was the conflict with Maybe and Rachel’s dad who is a patriarchal, 1950s throwback, douche of the highest order. Maybe’s sister is a former FBI agent who had a traumatic event occur. The event is never fully explained, but it resulted in Rachel needing physical assistance and quitting her job and changing her life entirely. Now as a tattoo artist, her parents, who vehemently dislike Maybe and have been estranged from her since she was a teenager, are trying to bring her back to what they feel is a more appropriate life and lifestyle and out from what they believe is Maybe’s poisonous influence. However, nothing comes out of this conflict. There just isn’t much of a climax and issues are solved and motives revealed, in some cases literally, by hashing them out around the kitchen table. This being said, I don’t know if the lack of plot isn’t really just a setup for the next book in the Whiskey Sharp series, Jagged, which is Rachel’s story and releases this March. Whatever the case, if real people, in real life employed the emotional maturity and aversion to drama as the characters in Unraveled that would be fantastic, but in a novel it just hampered an kind of climax and left me wishing something, anything, would happen.

One thing I really enjoyed about Unraveled was that it didn’t play on the trope of the overbearing boss and young, ingenue employee romance. There’s no power imbalance or dubious consent in Unraveled. Alexsei is dominant, sometimes overbearing, and at times more Russian than vodka and caviar, but he treats Maybe as an equal and cares for her as a friend and lover. Maybe, on the other hand is sexually experienced and, for the most part, comfortable in her own skin; she knows what she wants in life and has the chutzpah to go after it. There’s also the aforementioned talking it out that everyone in Unraveled seems to be capable of, Maybe and Alexsei are one of the most emotionally stable and relationally mature couples I think I’ve ever read.

Lauren Dane has been an auto buy for me, particularly her Contemporaries and Erotic Romances, but Unraveled kind of fell. Although it had interesting and well developed characters and could easily act as a primer on how to maintain emotionally mature and communicative relationships with loved ones, its lack of conflict and lackluster plot left me kind of bored.

Rating: C

*ARC received by publisher for review

Click to purchase: Amazon

Whiskey Sharp: Unraveled
by Lauren Dane
Release Date: January 30, 2018
Publisher: Harlequin

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