Review by Tori
Beatrix Becker spent most of her life under the thumb of her controlling, abusive father. And now that she’s free and attending her dream college, she has no idea how to act like the normal crowd: partying, going on dates, even having a conversation. Then she meets Serge Sorensen. Big and surly with a whole host of riotous tattoos, Serge is supposed to scare the hell out of her. But beneath his harsh exterior, Beatrix discovers a kindred spirit who knows what it’s like to be a misfit. Most exhilarating—and terrifying—is what he does for a living: illegal street fighting.
There’s nothing like the rush Serge gets from the intense athleticism and brutal glory of combat—though his chemistry with Beatrix comes close. Slowly at first, he introduces her to his world, where he lives by instinct, passion, and desire. He even helps her out with her equally traumatized brother. But when Serge gets in too deep with the wrong people, he ends up paying in blood. And suddenly, just as Beatrix has been drawn into Serge’s perfectly sculpted arms, she’s thrown once and for all into the fight of his life. (Goodreads)
Stein usually excels at building awkward relationships. Never Loved is such a relationship that is built around two people who were each victims of abuse. Told from the heroine’s POV, we learn Beatrix Becker and her brother were horrifically abused until they were able to escape. Beatrix comes to college for a normal life and instead finds herself always on the outside looking in. In her need to be seen as normal, she is unable to shed all the mental abuse her father inflicted on her. When she goes looking for her brother who has disappeared, she meets Serge Sorenson. A huge tattooed illegal fighter, Beatrix is both scared and titillated. Serge sends her home but finds and brings her brother to her. From that moment a connection is formed and neither is able to stay away from the other.
I’m a huge fan of Charlotte Stein. She has a unique voice that for the most part appeals to me. Unfortunately, this one didn’t work for me. Similar to her book Sheltered, which I adored, this one didn’t reveal story wise or character wise as I expected. Beatrix and Serge were very linear and I found them somewhat superficial. Normally not bothered by first person narrative, I found the narrative in here to be disjointed, clinical, and too heavily internalized. The dialogue when presented was weak and gave us no real insight to who Beatrix and Serge were. The switching from Beatrix’s internal monologue to conversations was haphazard and I often wasn’t sure who was speaking. Also, to be brutally frank, being in Beatrix’s head was not fun.
The story has no depth or dimension. Instalove forms in a few days and suddenly there is no Beatrix and Serge-it’s BeatrixSerge. We never learn what was the attraction for them. There is no build up to that defining moment-leaving the reader feeling rushed and unprepared for where Stein was trying to take us. I couldn’t help but feel their getting together was more circumstantial than fated.
Love scenes dot the landscape but as I didn’t buy the attraction, I couldn’t buy the romance, making it all that more awkward. The scenes didn’t fit into the general feeling of the book; not with Beatrix’s previous behavior. She is repressed and fearful of the world and sex in general yet in a week or so she can jump right into a sexual relationship? Hmmmm. The lack of chemistry is no help.
Stein keeps us firmly on a predestined path from start to finish with Beatrix unfortunately narrating every single step of the way until a small dramatic conflict tossed in at the end to show readers the supposed intensity of their love for one another.
This was not a favorite work of Stein’s for me. It felt like a puzzle where the pieces don’t quite fit and when it was complete, you had no idea what you were looking at.