Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pink Heart Picks: The Heart of a Hero

This month the Pink Heart Pick book club selection was THE HEART OF A HERO by Harlequin Romance author Barbara Wallace. I was particularly intrigued by this book because it deals with PTSD - a topic I've tackled before and struggled with as well in The Soldier's Homecoming. I wanted to see how Barb dealt with it because I know for me it was a difficult book to write but it was also intensely rewarding.

The book starts with a short scene from the hero's POV. This worked so well, because Jake is not particularly nice in the first part of the book. He's grouchy and brusque and really quite rude. But by showing us Jake first, the reader instantly knows he's dealing with trauma of some sort and so his grouchiness is put into instant context. Moreover, in a very few pages, Barb sets the scene beautifully. I know from the  Dear Reader letter that this island doesn't exactly exist, but that it's modeled on any small island off of Cape Cod really. I want to visit there. I really, really do. She really evoked the senses in those first few pages.

I loved Jake. He damn near broke my heart in a few places, and God bless Zoe for being so very sunshiney and persistent. When Jake finally opened up, it made my heart hurt. And there is a scene where he is in his uniform and Barb built up to it perfectly. It totally suited his arc and also rewarded the reader in such a swoonworthy way.

I also loved Zoe. I could really relate to her. Sometimes I thought that if it were me I'd tell Jake to take a hike and take his attitude with him, but she stuck it out because she saw something deeper. All the while though, there's that little bit of doubt about whether or not she's simply taking on another fixer-upper since she has a history of that. And we can't leave out Reynaldo - Zoe's daschund. I laughed at the choice of name for such a small package and his nickname of Tube of Terror made me giggle.

Zoe, by the way, is an advice columnist. What I particularly loved about it was that it was a career that suited her personality and her past. She is a helper. And it got personal for me too, because I could see a lot of Zoe in myself. Zoe lost her father to illness as a child. She has memories of when her father was healthy and the good things they did together. But then things changed when he got ill and Zoe felt pushed aside and in the way. There's a page I bookmarked ( love my e-reader!) and I'm going to quote it: Sick of investing her heart and soul only to get hurt time and time again. Stay out of the way, Zoe. Don't be a bother, Zoe. Help me, Zoe. That really got me right where I live, you know?

The problem with tackling such a difficult topic in 50,000 words is making a HEA believable - it can make for a really dramatic character arc. I also liked how Barb handled this. Jake isn't a fast mover - he's too damaged. So for the story to end at that moment with "oh great now everything's all better because I love you", would have probably made a good number of readers go "really?" I know I would have. Jake needs time. Heck, Zoe needs time too after her disastrous relationship. Barb cuts to a year later for the final scene which is far more believable and realistic.  It lets the reader know that yeah, they're in it for the long haul. Yeah, people are healing. And they are doing it together.

I also want to mention that they don't even kiss until the end, but there are still times that the tension really sizzles between them! It was really great how Barb did that.

It was a fantastic read...emotional, romantic, and incredibly evocative. I said on my blog earlier this summer that Susan Meier's The Baby Project was my fave HR read of this year, but Barb's book might just have bumped her into 2nd place. Barb's still relatively new to the Romance line, but I think she's destined to be a star.

Ok...on to next month's read!

I'm getting into the holiday mood. I know. It's only end of September, but it's comfort food weather, and I like spending fall evenings working on holiday projects etc. So I've picked a Christmas book from last year as the October read: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Sarah Mayberry.

Jayne, the community manager at Eharlequin, told me she cried buckets reading this one so I'm looking forward to it. I love Sarah's writing and it's time I got this one off the TBR - I've been holding on to it until I was in the mood for a holiday story!

We'll meet back here on October 27 to chat about it!

Donna's latest book is HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART, releasing next week from Harlequin Romance.  October is also a dual release month for Donna as her novella OFF THE CLOCK hits cybershelves on October 4. You can find out more about the books at her website,

And don't forget to visit and download her debut Romance, HIRED BY THE COWBOY, for FREE!


  1. What a fabulous post! Just went and bought the book x

  2. Oh Scarlet - thank you for that ! And thanks Pink Heart for giving me such a resounding thumbs up. This was a book of my heart - and I'm glad you all enjoyed it.

  3. Donna ~ I agree with your review. I really enjoyed this book. Jake, Zoe and Reynaldo in bed together really made me smile. I have read soldier heroes before, yours included, and Barbara gave a fresh look to PTSD. I have enjoyed two other of her stories as well. I know I have another one in my TBR. I loved the scene with Jake in his uniform. I'm glad there are authors around who will tackle this subject. I'm Reading A Marine for Christmas by Beth Andrews right now and her hero suffers from PTSD as well. I've yet to read a book where the heroine suffers from this but I'm sure someone will write one some day. I can't imagine life as a soldier in the first place and life after serving and being injured has got to fe so difficult. Thanks for picking this book.

    Next month's pick is a good choice as well. I haven't looked yet but I'm sure I own it.