Unquiet (Vallie’s Review)

Title: Unquiet (Resilient Love #3)
Author: Melanie Hansen
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: January 22, 2016
Genre(s): Contemporary
Page Count: 296
Reviewed by: Vallie
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5
A Gay Book Reviews 5+ star read!

Loren Smith has been in love with Eliot Devlin almost his entire life. During their turbulent childhood and teen years, Loren didn’t always understand Eliot, and sometimes he could be a challenge, but Eliot was the only one to ever truly ease Loren’s deep loneliness and accept him. When Eliot’s increasingly erratic and self-destructive behavior culminates in a suicide attempt at seventeen, Loren is devastated.

Upon meeting again by chance nine years later, Loren is enjoying a successful career as a police officer while Eliot’s life has been a constant struggle for stability. In and out of mental hospitals, with a rap sheet a mile long, he continues to be buffeted by the twin storms of mania and depression. Loren’s love and protectiveness for Eliot are deeply ingrained in him, however, and their feelings for each other are quickly rekindled.

Loren has issues of his own he’s dealing with, and trying to understand and cope with Eliot’s bipolar disorder isn’t easy. They believe they’re meant to be, and Eliot brings a fulfillment to Loren’s life that no one else will ever match. But as they both come to realize, love by itself can’t cure all.

I cannot possibly do this book justice with my review. It’s definitely going to be one of my top favourite books of 2016 and we’re not even out of January yet –go figure. Melanie Hansen has managed to write a beautiful love story while portraying bipolar disorder with respect to sufferers and carers. I have a personal kink with mental illness in romance –it’s admittedly one of my absolutely favourite tropes. And this novel is one of the best attempts at incorporating psychological issues in romance I have ever read.

Friends-to lovers, and especially childhood friends-to-lovers is a weakness for me. I just love meeting the characters as kids. There’s something very pure about the bond emerging from a childhood friendship. Elliot and Loren were inseparable from the first moment. Themes of acceptance and unconditional support are explored very organically here. It became obvious early on that something was not quite right with Elliot –even to Loren’s young and inexperienced eyes. The kids grew into early teens and then teens and Elliot was steadily getting out of control. The boys fell in love but Elliot’s untreated condition did not allow him to function. It essentially disabled him from being in a relationship with Loren. Elliot was promiscuous; he abused drugs; he engaged in thrill-seeking, self-destructive behaviours, leaving Loren to pick up the pieces. The culmination was Elliot’s psychotic break that marked the first time they became separated from each other’s lives for 9 years.

Oh my god the heartache. And what’s worse, there was more of it to come. I have to congratulate the author on the realistic portrayals of both the bipolar disorder but also the impact on the people close to the patient. Elliot’s suffering was devastating.

‘Usually when I wake up in the morning, I’m afraid’, he said, and Loren opened his mouth to speak but then didn’t say anything. Elliot glanced at him again, then continued, ‘I feel the craziness, the madness lurking, just waiting for me. It feels like it’s attached to me, that when I get out of bed, I’m dragging it with me. It’s always there, ready to pounce and swallow me up.

And Loren wasn’t perfect. He did take the role of the carer more than that of a boyfriend but he did make mistakes. I got so angry with him for leaving Elliot alone for hours and hours because of his job and for how much anxiety it caused Elliot, but then again, what was he supposed to do? He had to have something normal in his life so he could cope with everything as well.

Their reality was grim, most of the time, with Elliot either being manic, hypersexual, and full of energy and motivation, or so depressed he was barely holding on from attempting suicide. There are inpatient treatments, with Elliot and Loren being separated for long periods of time so Elliot could get the treatment he absolutely needed and Loren trying to get a grip.

In the midst of all the ugliness though and hidden under layers of psychosis and whip-lash inducing mood swings is a gem of a love story. One cannot do what Loren did for Elliot unless they love them with every-fucking-fibre of their being. It’s not a life that can be endured or tolerated. It’s a very hard choice that’s constantly being made and evaluated. And Loren passed every fucking test in terms of proving how precious Elliot is to him, mental illness and all. There was no romanticised version of the illness or the relationship. The author went all out to depict the realities of it all, including erectile dysfunction side-effects from Elliot’s medication and how they went past it and found a way to deal. Don’t worry, there are wonderful and hot sex scenes in this book as well.

Honestly, this book will not be for everyone. It goes way beyond hurt/comfort and angsty. The characters find some peace but the ending is a tentative HFN. If you enjoy reading about broken characters, and a good dose of co-dependency *raises hand frantically*, then you are in for a treat. This is so much more than a romance mm novel. It’s an important piece of writing and it makes me so freaking proud to be an avid reader of mm.

Highly recommended.

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