The Unrepentant: A Thriller by E.A. Aymar is a fiction novel that is not for the faint of heart. It deals with sex trafficking and paints what is likely a realistic picture of how women who find themselves in bad personal situations get drawn into that terrible predicament.

In addition to relaying the story of Charlotte, a young lady from an immigrant family who is abducted and forced into sexual slavery, The Unrepentant is the story of all the people who help Charlotte escape that terrible life. It is also in part the story of the psychological issues Charlotte faces as a result.

Told in a fast-paced narrative, the novel appears to have two main protagonists. The story begins when military veteran Mace happens upon Charlotte’s attempted execution at the hands of her captors. Mace thwarts it, only to find himself taking care of Charlotte while running from a host of murderous thugs, all while trying to figure out the best course of action to take. Charlotte, understandably, is initially mistrustful of Mace, and the bond of friendship that slowly forms between them is one of the best parts of this story.

From that point, the novel’s plot unfolds to involve Mace, his estranged attorney wife and a friend in Charlotte’s escape. Mace goes to great lengths to assist Charlotte, at incredible risk to himself and his friends. In fact, while reading this novel, I found myself wondering whether the average person would go to the lengths that Mace did for a stranger. I personally would not; I would certainly not put my loved ones at risk for a stranger, but it is an interesting question to pose to the reader.

Another interesting question is that of revenge. After Charlotte is arguably safe from her captors, she plots her revenge against them, with Mace’s assistance. Again, I questioned the logic behind a character’s actions. Why risk your life once you got free?

Whether Charlotte’s revenge is satisfying or too risky is the reader’s decision. Her ordeal has understandably made her angry. However, the reader is left with the question of whether her anger is due to nature or nurture, especially given Charlotte’s back story involving her mother’s own anger issues.

While Charlotte faces her demons, her rescuer Mace is also fighting his own. He suffers from depression, such that it appears that he almost welcomes the relentless nonstop activity in which he engages to help Charlotte. One of the highlights of this novel is how well the characters are developed. Indeed, Mace’s witty humor to defuse the gravity of the situation in which he found himself was my favorite part of the novel. It is one thing to describe what is happening, and another to understand why the characters act the way they do.

The most compelling, and difficult, part of this novel to read is the progression of Charlotte’s story as daughter of a single mother, to abused niece to independent teenager to kidnapping and trafficking victim. The author notes that most women who enter prostitution do not do so in the same way as Charlotte. Nevertheless, Charlotte’s story is heartbreaking and, unfortunately, likely not too different from that of tons of other victims with nowhere to go. This novel is not always easy to read, but raises interesting issues and shows the resilience of the human spirit.

Be on the lookout next week when we post book club questions for this novel!