Cars & Canines: Unraveling Him Review

by Theja Pk
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paperback of unraveling him by Claire kingsley laying on top of brown sweater

Last updated on February 15th, 2024

In this Unraveling Him review, we’ll explore the 3rd installment in the Bailey Brothers Series by Claire Kingsley. The book brings to life the story of Evan Bailey, the second oldest brother, and Fiona Gallagher, a car enthusiast and an all-around ray of sunshine.

This is a charming story about trust, bravery, and the courage to take a new path when everything you know goes up in flames.

Unraveling Him – Claire Kingsley

4 out of 5
illustrated book cover of Unraveling Him by Claire Kingsley showing a blue motorcycle next to a red shed and german shepherd dog

GENRE: Contemporary Romance
PUB DATE: August 20, 2020
TROPES: forced proximity, grumpy-sunshine

A small-town romance that’s great for fellow car enthusiasts. If you’re looking for a steamy romance with some mystery and a lot of animal love, this book is for you. 

Characters
4 out of 5
Writing
3 out of 5
Plot
5 out of 5
Narration
4 out of 5

Pros

good character development

combustible chemistry

hilarious brotherly dynamic

likable characters

Cons

overexplanatory inner monologues, which led to the narration being a bit tedious

Table of contents

Synopsis

Stoic, growly Evan Bailey has enough on his plate. A growing business, a pack of brothers who drive him crazy, a gossip-loving small town, and a rivalry that runs deeper than any family feud. Love? That’s a hard pass. He already learned the hard way that he’s better off alone.

Fiona Gallagher has a problem. Or more like ten, but who’s counting? The trouble with her car is just the cherry on top of the crap sundae, but she won’t let that get her down. Besides, she has a plan. Evan Bailey—that brooding custom car builder who happens to hate her father—is going to help her. He just doesn’t know it yet.

The last thing Evan needs is the overly cheery Fiona crashing into his solitary life. But her offer is too compelling to ignore. Fiona isn’t there to pick through the wreckage of Evan’s heart. If he has one, he won’t let her anywhere near it.

But the tension between them is hot enough to combust. And when she starts to see the cracks in his stony façade, she realizes she’s getting more than she bargained for—a lot more—in that big surly man.

Characters

Despite not having the best meet-cute, Evan and Fiona have great chemistry. Their love for cars was a well-needed catalyst to overcome their initial awkwardness.

And it was endearing that they both found comfort in non-humans – Evan with his dog and Fiona with her plants. Their opposing yet surprisingly similar personalities made for an amusing and comical read.

Evan

Evan Bailey, known to his family as “the lone wolf,” lives up to his nickname. He’s broody and grumpy, and his favorite person to hang out with is his German shepherd dog, Sasquatch.

When I first met him in Asher Bailey’s story from the previous books, he was not someone I particularly liked. But taking a deeper dive into his psyche humanized him and made him someone I wanted to cheer for.

This perception change reminds me of a quote I read in Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams “You know what I love most about the books? I love how they can make us cheer for pretty much any character if we understand why they’re doing something. We’ll let them get away with pretty much anything–including pushing away the woman they desperately want–if they have a strong motivation. The why behind their actions.” 

My constant worry with the grumpy/sunshine trope is that the grumpy character can come off a bit rude and unlikeable if not written correctly.

But with this book, I liked that Evan’s grumpiness was written to be more comedic than serious, and there was a lot of teasing around it.

His character development was done well. It was a delight to see how he learned to trust his pack of brothers when he needed them the most and with Fiona as she tried to push him out of his grumpy bubble. 

Fiona

Fiona is a forever optimist. She’s quirky and loves buying potted plants and naming them after characters that belong in the Golden Girls.

She babbles when nervous but is also not afraid to stand up for herself when she needs to, which is probably why Evan’s grumpiness never phases her for a second. 

I loved how brave her character was throughout the story. After her whole life takes a turn for the worse, she packs up everything and goes on the road without a plan. But as she tries to figure out her life, we meet an honest, charming girl with a huge heart. 

Side Characters

GRAM continues to be the MVP in these books. Her infinite wisdom adds such depth and heart to the story that I look forward to her scenes. I will never understand how she managed to raise these 5 brothers on her own because they are a handful, even in adulthood.

But I admired how they respected her and heeded her every word. Her psychic ability to nickname all her grandsons and their future partners is uncanny and simply impressive.

“Cricket is who she is. She’s the evening song that soothes the spirit of the restless wolf.”

We get to know the youngest Bailey brother, GAVIN, a little more in this one as Kingsley sets the stage for his story in the next book, Rushing In.

He’s hilarious, charming, and crazy; you can’t help but fall in love with him. 

SASQUATCH definitely steals the show, and you will adore his scenes if you’re a fellow dog lover like me.

And mild spoiler alert – but I love it when the guy’s dog loves the girl more. It’s such a hilariously endearing thing!

For fans of the Miles Brothers Series, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a fun cameo in this one.

Plot

Taking a detour from the previous books, Unraveling Him has some action-packed scenes, so I always stayed interested in the story. The story does start a bit slow between the MCs, but once it picks up, the chemistry is downright combustible.

The Tilikum town feud continues to wreak lighthearted chaos into the lives of its residents. But in this one, the feud gets a bit more personal between Evan and Luke Haven.

I enjoyed the extra depth this gave both the characters and the feud without it being a copy-and-paste kind of subplot throughout the series.

We also get more clues about the Eliza Bailey mystery we were introduced to in Asher and Grace’s story, and I am excited to unravel this as the series goes on. 

The climax was fast-paced and exciting, and I listened on the edge of my seat to find out how they would resolve it. And my favorite thing about the Bailey Brothers is the camaraderie and support the brothers give each other in times of need.

The book ends with an adorable grand gesture that concludes this heartwarmingly charming book. 

Writing

My one issue with this book, and I feel it’s a common thread in the series, is the over-explanatory inner monologues.

I don’t think every single thought in a person’s head should be mentioned, especially if some are repetitive. Editing these out would have made the book much better.

However, I enjoyed the dual POVs for both MCs, allowing me to understand each character more deeply. And I appreciated the details about all the cars and learning about car restoration.

Narration

Jason Clarke was the perfect voice for Evan – deep, intense, and seductive.

Ava did a good job making Fiona bubbly and optimistic, but I found her narration a bit frustrating – mostly because her chapters had more repetitive inner monologues.

Conclusion

Unraveling Him by Claire Kingsley is a small-town romance great for fellow car enthusiasts. If you’re looking for a steamy romance with some mystery and a lot of animal love, this book is for you. 

Cover Change

The series recently received an update with beautifully illustrated covers, which I must say are absolutely vibrant and capture the charming atmosphere of the small town.

But, I have to admit that I am a bit biased towards the originals because I think the men chosen to portray the brothers were a perfect match for their respective characters.

ORIGINAL COVER
UPDATED COVER

Enjoyed this Unraveling Him review? Then, be sure to add it to your TBR. And if you have already read this book and have some thoughts to share, drop them in the comments below. I would love to hear them!

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