“Our burdens give weight to everything we do. They shed light on all that we are. And the moment we lose them… we lose everything.”
*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***
It’s no secret that I consider Amy Harmon to be one of my absolute favorite authors and I have loved every single one of the 14 books I’ve read including this one. Oh yes: I know I’m a bit biased when it comes to her work, but The Unknown Beloved was yet another story that hit me hard and left me speechless. It’s a story that will stay with me for a long time, and even days later I’m still struggling to put a proper word on paper without sounding like a complete fangirl. But the fact is that while I love all of her books, The Unknown Beloved stands out even more and ended up being one of my absolute favorites. Let me try to explain why below.
First of all, this story has such a fascinating mix of genres! We have historical fiction, crime/detective, horror, paranormal and romance elements; all mixed together seemlessly to create a story that is both shocking, gritty and simply beautiful. Amy Harmon knows how to write historical fiction and I love just how many historical facts were incorporated into the story. It makes the historical setting that much more authentic and The Unknown Beloved transports you right back in time. The main focus is on the late 1930s Cleveland, a city caught in the grip of a brutal serial killer. Things can get graphic and very dark, so definitely keep this in mind when deciding if this story is for you. I’ve seen that some people expected romantic suspense and were shocked by just how gruesome some scenes were… This is definitely not a story for those with a weak stomach.
The paranormal element also plays a big role in the plot; it’s not something I always enjoy, but I really liked how it was incorporated into the story here. Main character Dani Flanagan can see things by touching fabric, and this is something that not only affects her on a personal level, but also something that she uses for something good (giving the unknown dead a voice as she prepares them for burial). Her character in general is fascinating with her past and brutal loss of both her parents and her gift… And I liked how she complemented the other main character Michael Malone, who is more pragmatic. Both the fact that he is an undercover investigator and his past connection to Dani make you immediately intrigued by him, and he brought great things to the plot.
As always, there is also romance to be found among the darkness. It’s mostly a slowburn romance and rather sweet; it’s something that will give you a little respite from the death and danger and it helped balance the story as a whole. I loved seeing the connection between both characters grow and their development in general is what makes the story truly come alive and win over your heart. The writing itself is splendid, and it was a story that didn’t let me go even days after I finished reading it. I loved every single minute of my time with The Unknown Beloved, and while it is a lot darker and gruesome than most of her other books, if you think you can stomach it, this story will end up blowing you away completely.