The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


Reece Reads: When She Unravels book review


Note: This book contains themes of violence, drug use and suicide


Quick PSA for all Literary Oversharers:

When your college counselor asks, “What are you reading?” at the start of your family meeting with both of your parents present, don’t answer “mafia.” They will have questions.


“When She Unravels” by Gabrielle Sand is a dark-contemporary-mafia romance set in Ibiza and New York. 


The main character, Valentina, flees her family, her husband, and her mafia-princess life in New York only to end up in a situationship with another undercover mafioso in Ibiza. 


This novel is recommended for readers eighteen years and older, but who am I kidding, I never follow those recommendations, and never will. 


However, I would recommend “When She Unravels” to all high schoolers of all reading backgrounds. I think it is a great introduction to the world of mafia romances as it is fairly tame. I may just be desensitized, but for a resident dark romance reader such as myself, I found it to be a bit underwhelming. Nonetheless, I think it’s great for beginners. 


The novel has a strong plot that really drives the story. It has dual perspectives, so you get to hear from both the female and male love interests. 


As one can expect, the writing style is no Morrison, but if you are considering reading a mafia romance, do you really care?  


I will say, however, that there were a few good moments, and a few cringey ones too. (This is based on my personal scale, so good is highly subjective).


The male love interest, Damiano (yes, he is Italian), has a few swoon-worthy lines that literally made me scream. He is a little bit possessive and a bit of an alpha male, but as I always say, much to Ms. Fox’s dismay, possessiveness and toxicity are always (and only) excusable in fictional men. 


For example, on page 116, about thirty percent through the book, Damiano says a line that made my jaw drop. 


For context, Damiano, a rich mafioso club owner, is infatuated with Valentina but doesn’t know why. Valentina, on the other hand, is just trying to survive while keeping her identity a secret so her family back in New York can’t track her down. 


In this scene, after Valentina’s been invited to an exclusive yacht party in Ibiza, Damiano reveals his possessive side, saying, “If I see someone else’s hands on you, I’ll break them. If you come to the party, the only person who’ll touch you will be me.”


Now, some might say this is problematic… nay, most might say this is problematic, but if that’s you, just don’t read this book. There’s much more where that came from. 


Unfortunately, however, there are also some extremely cringy lines, and that is saying a lot coming from me. For instance, at one point, Valentina’s internal dialogue could actually be the worst thing I’ve ever read in my life. 


After a pseudo-therapy session with Damiano, in which he comforted her, she spews this garbage: “I’ve tried to forgive myself many times after I got to Ibiza, but my attempts always seemed like throwing a bunch of seeds over dry, infertile soil and expecting them to sprout. They never did. Damiano’s words feel like rain. They soak the dusty earth and reach all the way down to the place where my soul has been hiding. One day, we may have a flower yet” (303).


Now after reading this line, I physically gagged. I almost stopped reading, but I’m glad I continued because shortly after, Damiano says this: “I want to burn everyone who’s hurt her to the ground, starting with her husband. If he’s alive, he won’t stay that way for long” (304).


As Paris Hilton might say, “That’s Hot™” and heat burns garbage, so, from now on, I am acting as though the lines above never existed. 


Nonetheless, “When She Unravels” was a good waste of time. I read it in two days (while procrastinating my homework), but would not read it again. I recommend it to all high schoolers interested in dark romance, and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out. But be warned, just like a Casti student after a test, I will forget the entire plot in two to three business days. Act fast.


I rate “When She Unravels” three out of five C’s: Caporegime, Consigliere, and Camorra. All of these words have to do with the mafia, and yes, I now know way too much about the mafia. Please excuse my browser history.

Reece Reads is published biweekly on Fridays. To access more reviews, click the “Reece Reads” tag below.

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