by Stef Ann Holm, historical (2001)
Sonnet, $6.50, ISBN 0-671-77548-0

What a cute book, and I do mean cute in every essence of the word. Hearts concludes the early 1900s romance quartet set in the town of Harmony, and while I haven't read Hooked (the premise still scares me - images of big misunderstandings loom nigh), Hearts is my favorite of the remaining three.

Although I did wonder, during the first few chapters, whether I've bought Harmony by mistake, because the premise is rather similar. Prim and proper woman meets chauvinist-but-sexy unpolished dude. Truvy Valentine is a schoolmarm who is torn between a flaming feminist or to ditch her britches and be a womanly woman. When she is forced to "take an extended leave" after being caught teaching her girls human sexuality, she visits Harmony to spend time with her pregnant friend Edwina (heroine of Harmony). The man she encounters waiting for her is the beer-totting, smoke-puffing, all-round-ungentlemanly Jake "Bruiser" Brewster. Bruiser was a former bodybuilding champion, so Truvy starts salivating over those perfect muscles. Yummy.

While she tries to pass the time in Harmony and end up a dance teacher - of all things, since she can't dance for peanuts - and her and Jake's world collide when his bodybuilding students start coming over for dance classes.

Now, any man who would take the trouble to read for the sake of the heroine wins me over. When Jake shapes up, he really does shape up. Truvy is also a fun heroine, although both she and Jake sometimes remind me of Edwina and her hubby Tom's story a bit too close for comfort in the way their relationship develops. But with Ms Holm's great comedy and warm humor, I really can't help but to enjoy the story. Hearts is fun.

You know what's more fun? This story is also full of (deliberate?) closet stuff. I mean, here we have Truvy spending time with her dearest friend Edwina and thinking on and on about how radiant, how beautiful her pregnant friend is, and oh, those sharp longings in her heart. For whom, exactly, eh, Truvy? And all those muscular men going jockstrap-shopping and discussing whether "one size fits all" while feeling each other's muscles... it's like a stereotypical gay male locker room foreplay porno scene all over again. So much suppressed innuendos, people. What is it they say about boarding schools and locker rooms again?

I confess Hearts doesn't exactly have the emotional knockout factor where I am concerned, hence the final rating. But it's been a fun-filled, humorous trip while it lasted, really. Hearts has plenty of hearts and laughter indeed.

Rating: 84

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