(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for Unbroken Connection, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from the first book in the series, Taken By Storm. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)
Remember when I gushed about Angela Morrison's debut novel, Taken By Storm? The one about Molly Mormon Leesie Hunt, who lives on a pig farm in teensy Tekoa, Washington and falls in love with Michael Walden, a sexy, scuba-diving non-Mormon? Yeah, that one. Well, the star-crossed couple is back. Unbroken Connection, the second book in the series, continues the story of their unlikely romance. The relationship, which should never have worked in the first place, grows more complicated with each page.
When the novel opens, Leesie's trying to navigate her way through her first year at Brigham Young University. Her attempts at juggling homework, roommate drama, and "pity" dates with eligible LDS men, aren't quite enough to keep her mind away from Michael, who's working on a dive boat in Thailand. Although she knows keeping her distance from him is the only thing that will keep her chaste (one of her unbreakable rules), just chatting on the computer with him sends Leesie's hormones into overdrive. She misses Michael with a fierceness that scares her.
As much as Michael would like to forget Leesie with all her prude, Mormon rules, he can't. Diving can't distract him. Other girls don't shift his focus. Nothing can erase her. If only he could convince her to join him in Thailand. They could get married - whatever - as long as they're together. There's only one problem: Leesie won't settle for a courthouse wedding. She'll only marry in one of her Mormon temples. Since Michael hardly believes in God, let alone all Leesie's religious crap, he doesn't stand a chance with her. He wishes he could just accept that and move on. Except he can't.
At a hopeless impasse with Michael, Leesie tries to concentrate on her studies, tries to reconcile herself to loving the returned missionary whose worthiness is what she knows she deserves. But when Michael shows up in Utah, everything changes. And when tragedy strikes, things shift again. Can Leesie and Michael weather the storms that howl around them? Or will their differences yank them apart for good?
If you've read any LDS fiction, you know that most novels written for Mormon teens tend to completely ignore pesky little issues like hormones, sexual attraction, naughty thoughts, making out, bodily reactions to making out, etc.. The result? Storylines that bear no resemblance to the reality of being an LDS teenager. You know why I like Angela Morrison? She tells it like it is without getting too graphic. Through Leesie, she describes the plight of "good girls" everywhere who struggle to remain pure when temptation looks so darn good. Michael's perspective will resound with all the "good guys" out there who fight their bodies and minds daily out of respect for their girlfriends. As much as we want to believe that LDS kids don't wrestle with these issues, they so totally do. I'm glad at least one author out there isn't afraid to admit it. She does it well, too, with polished prose and an edginess that always surprises - and delights - me.
That being said, I have to confess that Leesie and Michael started to really nauseate me in Unbroken Connection. Some of their chat sessions made me want to gag. Sorry, but it's true. What made me want to gag even more is that when my husband read the cheesiest passages, he said, "This reminds me of us." And, embarrassingly enough, I had to agree with him. Despite some ooey-gooey moments, Morrison's descriptions of BYU life made me laugh, and the story had enough conflict to keep me interested. I didn't enjoy it as much as I did Taken By Storm, but still, I appreciate Morrison's candor, her sense of humor, and her ability to write meaningful, realistic fiction. Cheesy or not.
If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for mild language (no F-bombs) and a fair amount of sexual innuendo
To the FTC, with love: I received a ARC of Unbroken Connection from the always generous Angela Morrison. Thank you!