Source: Review copy from the author.
Book Description, my take:
Genevieve, a middle-aged professional quilter from Tennessee, has come to Buenos Aires, Argentina to sell her goods at a South American quilting expo. While eating at a restaurant after the first day of the show, a handsome gentleman shows concern over her onion-induced tears. Carlos Cornella makes her feel special and, during their brief encounter, she feels like their souls connected.
However, when her Argentine friends show up, they chase him away and warn her against him. He's notorious as a military officer that oversaw the torture of many civilians during the Dirty War.
Every time Gen spends time with Carlos, she can't believe that such a kind, caring man could really do such things. Her friends step up their efforts by telling her about the war and taking her to hear survivors tell about their torture at Carlos' command. Her strong attraction for Carlos clashes with these horrific stories and makes her lose her appetite and have trouble sleeping. Then one night she has a vivid dream of Jesus telling her to love Carlos unconditionally like Jesus loves her unconditionally. Also, Jesus says that Carlos is the man He has chosen for her, and He asks her to devote herself to Carlos.
Though Carlos isn't a Christian and views himself as unforgivable, she decides to follow her divine mission to love her soul mate...no matter where it may lead.
Note: From the brief description I was given for this novel, I thought it was about a wife learning her husband was a war criminal, having to reconcile how well he treated her with how cruel he was to others, and learning to love him with Christ's love. It's not. Carlos is more what women wish men were like than what men really are like. In real life, if a handsome, charming man approached a unknown, crying foreigner, it would be because he intended to scam her. While I agree with the story's theme that no one is beyond Christ's forgiveness if they truly repent, I don't like that this story promotes co-dependency as love as well as seriously dating and getting physically intense with a man while not intending to marry him (or have sex with him) unless he becomes a Christian.
The Unforgivable is a romance novel with a historical element. The romance had typical elements--fall in lust at first sight, feel souls touch, play with temptation--but added an unusual element by having Gen's friends warn her away from him. He tortured and "disappeared" civilians during the Dirty War, and now he's harassed as a symbol of all those who committed war crimes during that time. He's desperate for love, and she's drawn to being needed by him.
As her friends try to warn her away from him, we learn about Argentina's Dirty War. A lot of time in the first half was spent describing what happened in all its shades of gray. If you're not interested in learning about the horrors committed as the military tried to track down militant guerrillas who blended in with civilians, then this isn't the book for you. The author included detailed descriptions of torture.
The characters were interesting but a bit single-dimensional considering the material. I didn't understand why Gen never questioned her dreams even though her close friend reminded her that they've been wrong before (on page 164). Also, I think the author was trying to portray Gen as having wavering intentions when it came to not marrying Carlos until he converted, but those sentences just sent me back to see if I'd misunderstood her previous, resolutely stated intentions--either to marry him even if he wasn't a Christian, or to wait however long until he converted. Also, the author would sometimes use a word that didn't quite fit which made me pause in my reading.
There was a strong Christian element throughout, including praying, several "vision" dreams including a dream of Jesus talking to her, and a message of forgiveness for all. However, the story wasn't really about "a bad man finding redemption and forgiveness in Christ" but "a broken and hurting good man finding comfort and peace from a painful past."
Though the story builds up to a trial where Carlos will be tried for war crimes, the story ends when the Christian and romantic elements are wrapped up. The trial was left unresolved. There was a minor amount of "he cussed" style bad language. There were no sex scenes (although rape was referred to in the torture stories).
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
Excerpt from Chapter One
It had been a long first day at the quilting expo in Buenos Aires. Tired, I sat back in my chair and rubbed the stiffness from my neck, then worked the headache from my temples. At least the worst of the jet lag had finally waned.
Sally, my lifelong friend from back home, and Paloma, a native Argentine Sally and I became fast friends with a while back on an online quilters-unite site, approached my kiosk looking just as exhausted as I felt.
"So, how did you do?" Sally asked.
I glanced over my display pieces, mentally tallying the sale of the day and the orders for future pieces. "Today's orders alone will keep my hands busy sewing and stitching once we get back to Sweetwater, that's for sure."
"Good for you! I had a good turnout, too. We did well by coming here, Genevieve."