Unforgivable Love: A Retelling of Dangerous Liaisons

Written by Sophfronia Scott
Review by Nicole Evelina

Updated to more modern times, this retelling of Dangerous Liaisons takes place in 1940s Harlem instead of the 18th century French court. The scheming Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil has become the rich, coddled heiress Mae Malveaux, while seductive rake Vicomte de Valmont is transformed into Valiant Jackson. Their cruel pact remains the same: if Valiant can seduce Mae’s virginal cousin Cecily, he gets to spend the night with Mae. But there’s always a catch and when you’re used to getting what you want, it’s the thing you can’t have. For Val, that is Elisabeth Townsend, an upright married woman with whom he falls madly in love. As the famous aphorism says, “the heart wants what the heart wants,” but in this tale, mixing love and lust can have disastrous consequences.

I’ve been a fan of the storyline of Dangerous Liaisons since its 1990s cinematic counterpart, Cruel Intentions, was released so any retelling had big shoes to fill with me. Unforgiveable Love did not disappoint! It is sultry and sexy as a summer night, languid and luscious as the jazz that underscores its pages. Others have compared reading it to listening to poetry or a beautifully scored symphony and I would agree. Scott’s prose is beautiful and evocative. She manages to keep the keen, calculating intellect and power-driven lust of the original characters while still making them her own, thanks to vivid settings and creative back stories. Similarly, relocating the story to 1940s Harlem was brilliant, enabling the author to use the conflicts of race and class to even greater advantage than the original. Most of all, Scott manages to do something no other retelling has: make the reader truly believe redemption is possible for the deceitful characters at its heart. Highly recommended.