Unforgivable Love

A Retelling of Dangerous Liaisons by Sophfronia Scott

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In this vivid reimagining of the French classic Les Liaisons Dangereusesit’s the summer when Jackie Robinson breaks Major League Baseball’s color barrier and a sweltering heat has Harlem’s elite fleeing the city for breezier Westchester County. But two schemers there prowl amid the manicured gardens and fine old homes.

In Harlem 1947, Jazz may be king, but heiress Mae Malveaux rules society with an angel’s smile and a heart of stone. She made up her mind long ago that nobody would decide her fate. Marriage, money, freedom… Mae wants complete control. To have the pleasure she craves, control is paramount, especially control of the men Mae attracts like moths to a flame.

Valiant Jackson is accustomed to getting what he wants—and he’s wanted Miss Malveaux for years. The door finally opens for him when Mae is slighted by her former lover Frank Washington, and she strikes a bargain: seduce her virginal young cousin, Cecily, who is now engaged to Frank, a man who values Cecily’s innocence above all else. If Val is successful, his reward will be Mae.

Unbeknownst to Mae, Val seeks another, even more valuable prize. Elizabeth Townsend is fiercely loyal to her church and her civil rights attorney husband. She is certain that there is something redeemable in Mr. Jackson. Little does she know her most unforgivable mistake will be Val’s greatest triumph. But for all their scheming, Mae and Val are unprepared for what can happen between a man and a woman when the thrill of the chase spirals wildly out of control.


“Picasso’s ‘Head of a Bull’ was made simply by attaching a set of handle bars to bicycle seat; simple, yes. But a stunning leap of imagination. This is what UNFORGIVABLE LOVE brings to mind for me: here is this eighteenth century French tale remade into a panorama of mid-century Harlem, America–full of brilliant characters, a tale of love and lust and treachery, written with the rhythms of jazz, giving forth beautifully rendered rooms and streets and sounds. The remake is better than the original.”

Richard Bausch, Award-winning author of BEFORE, DURING, AFTER

“Complicated characters, unbearable tension, heartbreak, and betrayal make UNFORGIVABLE LOVE an absorbing read. Sophfronia Scott is a master storyteller with an enormous capacity for compassion, capable of finding hope in the most hopeless circumstances, redeeming the unredeemable, and demonstrating the transformative power of love. Deeply poignant.”

Erika Robuck, National Bestselling Author of HEMINGWAY'S GIRL

“At once beautiful and ominous, visceral and ethereal, tragic and fulfilling, UNFORGIVABLE LOVE is a genuinely moving novel of love and loss and the treacherous paths we make for ourselves when we let our passions run away with us. Sophfronia Scott has given us a book that will last, an elegant page turner that transcends time and place.”

Bret Lott , New York Times bestselling author of JEWEL

“Why do the worst people always seem to win? In this remarkable retelling of the French classic Les Liasions Dangereuses, Sophfronia Scott brings scandal, manipulation, and perverse desire to (barely) postwar America. Never have I rooted against a protagonist so fervently, all the while taking secret pleasure in the subversion of virtue. But wait. Who really wins here? Beautifully written, sumptuously atmospheric, fearless in its cultural appropriation, UNFORGIVABLE LOVE is surely the breakout book for this thrilling new voice.”

Bill Roorbach, award-winning author of LIFE AMONG GIANTS and THE GIRL OF THE LAKE

“Unforgivable Love is lyrical and lush, enchanting and energetic. With bottomless empathy and loving attention to detail, Sophfronia Scott embraces a classic and makes it her own.”


“Unforgivable Love is an exquisite, sexy, beautifully imagined novel in which Sophfronia Scott expertly recasts the intrigues and characters of Dangerous Liaisons in Harlem of the late 1940s. It’s evident that Scott was deeply inspired by the spirit and events of Pierre de Laclos’s classic novel, but she has claimed its subjects–romantic love and betrayal–as her own. Both a virtuosic homage and a thrilling retelling–Unforgivable Love is a stunning accomplishment.”


“Scott’s wonderful, original retelling of Dangerous Liaisons takes readers deep into the lives of her characters; Mae, Val, and Elizabeth are riveting and complex. You won’t be able to stop reading this terrific, absorbing book.”

Karen E. Bender, author of REFUND, Finalist for the National Book Award

“In short, jewel-like chapters, Unforgivable Love by Sophfronia Scott, a retelling of the classic, Dangerous Liaisons, is the tale of a sexy summer’s intrigue in the world of comfortable, glitteringly fashionable members of African-American high society in Jazz Age Harlem, New York. Scott’s novel is a vivid, vibrant, and panoramic exploration of the hearts and minds of its mostly well-heeled characters and the universal themes of love, sex, and social intrigue. Unforgivable Love offers a delightful opportunity to spend time in the Harlem heyday, a period of post-war optimism and renaissance. Sophfronia Scott takes readers there and lets them wander and discover this exciting, historical time and place.”

Breena Clarke, author of the Oprah Book Club choice RIVER, CROSS MY HEART

“Unforgivable Love is a fast-paced tale of intrigue, seduction, and betrayal. Sophfronia Scott leaves us breathless.”

Lee Martin, Pulitzer Prize Finalist author of THE BRIGHT FOREVER

“Imagine Dangerous Liaisons set in 1940s Harlem, amidst the nascent civil rights movement, baseball, and jazz, and you have Sophfronia Scott’s riveting novel Unforgivable Love. A masterful storyteller, Scott delights in intrigue — sexual, psychological, emotional — orchestrated by a cast of deeply observed characters struggling with the best and worst of themselves. Ultimately, Unforgivable Love is a story of redemption that proceeds from a compelling question: which desire is more deadly, the desire for love or for power? I miss this world — and Scott’s gorgeous prose — already.”

Lori Ostlund, author of AFTER THE PARADE

“Unforgivable Love is an unforgettable read. Scott’s reimagining of Dangerous Liaisons into 1940’s Harlem society is nothing short of inspired, with all the spice and spite and delight of the original, and more. Nuanced, haunting, elegant, this is a book I can’t wait to read again – and then, again.”

Robin Black, author of LIFE DRAWING

“Unforgivable Love is vibrant, thoughtful and very sexy. It sneaks up on you and once you are under its spell, it won’t let go.”

Martha Southgate, author of THE FALL OF ROME