Dangerous Beauty // by Melissa Koslin

We all know I’m a sucker for the marriage of convenience trope, so I requested this book from Revell’s reviewer program in hopes that it would be an engaging read.  Unfortunately, this one just didn’t really work for me.  I didn’t buy the chemistry between the main characters, the marriage scenario felt rather weak, and for a story about human trafficking, I found myself somewhat disengaged.  I did like the Lillian as a character, and the concept, but on the whole this one just ended up falling flat.

We meet Liliana when she is fleeing from traffickers.  She’s escaped their custody and runs into a gas station.  When they close in on her, she’s rescued by a random stranger, Meric.  During the ensuing interview with police, etc., Meric offers to marry Liliana so that she won’t have to worry about getting deported back to Mexico.  And she just says yes??  And everyone goes along with it??  Marriage of convenience really only works if the scenario surrounding it makes sense, and two absolute strangers deciding to get married within 15 minutes of meeting each other just didn’t work for me.

Throughout the story, we rarely hear anything from Meric’s perspective, and the story really suffers because of that lack.  Koslin uses almost entirely negative words to describe him, like cold, hard, barely controlled rage, emotionless, abrupt, etc.  He’s constantly brushing off Liliana and leaving her alone.  She’s supposedly in constant danger, but he encourages her to go out and go shopping.  She tells him repeatedly that she hates being kept in the dark and needs information to feel safe, but he’s always withholding information and telling her it’s because “she needs to heal,” even after she straight-up says that, for her, the way to healing is understanding what is going on.

Of course, in the end, we find out Meric has been in love with her all along but didn’t want her to feel pressured so that’s why he couldn’t bear to spend time around her yadda yadda but since we never hear anything from his perspective, he just comes across as a real jerk, and it honestly made zero sense to me why Liliana even liked him, despite her CONSTANTLY talking about how kind he is and how she sees “behind the coldness in his eyes” and that kind of nonsense.  This made the emotional pacing the of the story feel uneven and disjointed, and left me never really rooting for them as a couple because I honestly never actually liked Meric.

I also didn’t like the way Liliana says repeatedly (to herself) that she views herself as “damaged” and “impure” because of her experiences with the traffickers.  Then at one point she just suddenly goes, “Oh no wait actually that’s not true!” and then it’s never mentioned again.  For as much as she referred to it negatively, it would have been extremely positive to have this epiphany actually be more involved.  And since Liliana is presented as someone who, if not a Christian, at least a believer in God/that He has a plan for her life, and since Revell is a Christian publisher, it was a pretty amazing opportunity to talk about how Liliana (and everyone) is valued by God no matter what happens to us.

Meric and Liliana have both gone through major trauma, yet in the end apparently their love for each other is all they need to “heal” and go forward.  I found it somewhat hard to believe that Liliana was really so quickly past a lot of what had happened to her.  Meric also finds out this huge thing about his past right at the end of the book and is basically just like, “Oh.  Well, at least I have love!”  It just didn’t feel realistic.

I hate to spend most of a review bashing a book.  I did feel like this incredibly complicated topic of human trafficking was handled really well and presented in a realistic yet not horrifically graphic way, which made it feel more approachable.  I would have loved it if this book had included some kind of information about a ministry or organization that is working against human trafficking that I could look up for more information on what I could personally do to help, just a little “here’s a place to start” kind of thing.

This book has over a 4* average rating on GR, so I’m definitely in the minority on this one, so if the synopsis sounds intriguing to you, I would still check it out.  I really loved Liliana, who is an incredibly strong and brave character and who doesn’t just roll over and give up, despite everything she has been through.

NB: This book was given to me for free from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.