Having read Marina Black’s book Dealing with the Devil, I was keenly aware of her remarkable ability to craft strong female characters. There are no damsels in distress insinuating themselves into the narrative of Black’s books. Instead, it is evident that Marina Black is a perceptive writer who focuses her attention on determined characters who courageously embrace the hand in which fate has dealt them as they journey through their lives.
Her latest book, Unintentionally Yours, continues Marina Black’s trajectory of writing excellence. Can love conquer fear? That profound question is at the heart of this book. The reader will examine this question through the eyes of the book’s main protagonists, Vincent “Reno” O’Keefe and Mona Gallo.
Vincent O’Keefe, who the reader will get to know mainly through his moniker “Reno”, is the owner of The Watering Hole, a Carson City strip club that he bought five years ago in a foreclosure sale. We learn that Reno hails from Boston and a large Irish Catholic family. Nearly 40 years old, his life has consisted mainly of unfulfilling one night stands and short-term relationships. Reno seemingly protects his heart by refusing to get too close to the possibility of a real relationship. Consequently, Reno’s life is at a crossroads.
When Reno bought The Watering Hole, he met stripper Mona Gallo. Unlike Reno who has a loving and supportive family, Mona’s childhood was unstable and full of heartache. Her mother is a drug addict who died when she was a teen. Her father is in prison for murder. Rather than becoming a captive to the foster care system, Mona hid her scars and made a living as a stripper. As Black describes Mona, ” at fifteen years old, she’d learned to hide her feelings of fear. If she kept everything locked behind walls, never feeling or wanting anything, she couldn’t be hurt.” Because of her difficult life, Mona masks her pain under a tough exterior. She keeps everyone in line at The Watering Hole. While she and Reno often clash, it is clear that they really care for each other.
Mona had been dating wealthy Kyle Andreas. When she became pregnant, Kyle ended their relationship and told her that he didn’t want to be a father to their baby. At 33, Mona’s life is also at a crossroads. Yet, she is determined to keep her baby and give the child the love and support she didn’t experience.
When his younger sister Lizzy invites Reno to her wedding, Reno doesn’t want to attend the affair alone. He convinces Mona to come to Boston with him and to go along with the pretense that they are a couple. Reno hasn’t been home in a decade and he wants his family to believe that he’s a successful businessman in a successful relationship. His fear of being perceived as a failure motivates many of Reno’s choices.
Mona agrees, but she is determined to keep her pregnancy a secret.
There is a comfortable intimacy in which Black writes these characters. They are flawed, yet purposefully heroic in confronting their emotional challenges. These characters are accessible to the reader because they reflect the internal dialogue we engage in with ourselves, our desire to give and receive love as well as our fear that our happily ever after is but a mirage.
Black is a skilled writer with a talent for painting description and mining realistic dialogue that packs an emotional punch. Further, Black takes a subtle approach at foreshadowing. Her story is appropriately paced, sprinkled with humor and full of twists and turns.
Unintentionally Yours is a book likely to have mass appeal. It doesn’t just speak to a female audience. Black listens to the reader and allows her writer’s voice to speak to everyone who craves love. And, perhaps, when you listen with your heart, you can fight your fear. Perhaps love may become unintentionally yours.