REVIEW: Unconditional by Cherie M Hudson
I was so excited to read this book. The heroine has early-onset Parkinson’s disease. I am thrilled that we are reading love stories about all different sorts of people and I couldn’t wait to see what you had in store with me. Unfortunately, I disliked both main characters by about the 30% mark and it was a struggle for me to finish. Worse, I feel like an asshole for not loving a book about a heroine like Maci Rowling.
Maci has come to Australia, the first time being away from her family, to study abroad. She has a rather inconceivable meet cute with a hot guy outside the airport men’s bathroom where she first says she has to desperately use the bathroom and then says she also needs a kiss. Setups are hard and I was willing to go with this one, no matter how implausible because this is fiction and this is romance.
Her kiss was with Raphael Jones who is pleased that Maci doesn’t know that he’s the brother of a girl who recently married into a royal family. He also attends her college.
Maci’s disease is obvious. Her hand slaps repeatedly against her leg. She has uncontrollable tremors. She is awkward and uncoordinated and this makes her not only self-conscious but emotionally fragile. Early on she admits that she wishes she was hardened to the disease but she’s just not. I can accept that and even understand it.
The biggest problem I had with Maci was that she treated those around her with a certain level of meanness. When they tried to help, she was mean. When they tried to encourage her to be more self-sufficient and live the “normal” college life, she was mean. Maci tries to excuse this behavior by explaining that part of a Parkinson’s sufferer’s problem:
Here’s the thing with Parkinson’s disease. It’s not just all shakes and trembles and falling down. It is a brain problem, after all. It can, at times, make you very surly. I watched Dad tiptoe around Mom often, especially in the last few years before he was killed. I don’t know if my surliness at that moment was because of the fucked-up state my brain was in from jet lag, sleep-deprivation, my goddamn pain-in-the-ass disease, or because Brendon Osmond had made me feel the very way I hated feeling—vulnerable and weak. Either way, I was happy to entrench myself in it.
And that’s Maci’s character in a nutshell. She’s surly, sneering, rude, and, often, man. She gives people no quarter. When one of her new friends takes her to the gym and she playfully collapses after a strenuous workout, he rushes to her side to make sure she’s okay. Maci takes great offense to this, slaps his hand away, and then is rude to him for caring.
I know I was supposed to find her sympathetic and she didn’t need to be the plucky, the sun -will-come-out tomorrow type of heroine, but at every turn, I felt like no character could do right by Maci.
Raphael wasn’t much better. Since his sister married into a minor royalty, he’s been hounded by paparazzi. Girls are apparently selling stories to papers and he’s become jaded and cynical. He treats Maci with one half part disdain because he’s sure she’s going to stab him in the back and one half negligent affection.
There’s one scene in which Raphael and Maci were surprised by paparazzi and Raphael allows himself to be whisked off by security while Maci is literally trampled by the tabloid press. I felt like that scene was a hallmark of the tone of the book. It’s over the top in many aspects but it also leaves you with a bad taste for one of the main protagonists. It’s rather predictable too. You can see the resolution from almost the beginning given that Maci’s into koalas and Raphael’s family land is a haven for koalas.
The villain is the royal sister who will stop at nothing to get Raphael as her prince and she’s just as obvious as one might imagine mocking Maci’s disease, displaying pictures of Raphael and the princess as an idyllic couple.
I found Raphael to be flat as a character and preferred Maci’s good friend as the romantic lead who was easy for Maci to talk to, knew what kind of drink she wanted, and exhibited non stop understanding. In fact both the secondary characters–Maci’s friends–were more relatable and interesting that Maci and Raphael.
None of the issues alone would have been problematic, but combining them altogether and it was a frustrating reading experience. C-