by Kayla Perrin, contemporary (2012)
KImani, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86256-6
Always In My Heart the start of a new series from Kayla Perrin called Harts In Love. It's about three estranged sisters who are reunited at their aunt's funeral. This aunt took them in and cared for them after their mother walked out on them, so her death caused them to evaluate their own lives. This one is Callie Hart's story.
It's a familiar song and dance as Callie comes home to Cleveland with her nine-year old son Kwame. A recent accident and now her aunt's death had taught her that everything could end tomorrow, and she has best tie up some loose ends in her life. She will make peace with her sisters, but more importantly, she will tell Nigel Williams, her boyfriend from her teenage years, that Kwame is his son. Surprise, Daddy!
Yes, this a reunion story with a surprise kid thrown in. Still, Callie attempts to resolve things between her and Nigel like adults, and she acknowledges that she was a foolish teenager ten years ago when she walked out on Nigel and never told him that she was pregnant. Callie is a pretty smart heroine with a good degree of awareness about her actions and behavior, and I like that she wants Nigel to be a part of her son's life.
Nigel is the one who behaves like a sullen kid here. Oh, I know, he deserves the opportunity to pout and scowl for a while, but he also takes the opportunity to leap to some bizarre conclusions. Callie didn't tell him about Kwame, so that is evidence that she never loved him from the start! She's a liar! Liar! For the rest of the story, he holds a grudge, although that doesn't stop him from sleeping with Callie and trampling her feelings afterwards. He doesn't mean to trample her feelings, but he's so thoughtless because he's like an overgrown kid. While Callie believes - correctly - that she hadn't been angel back then, but that was because she was an immature kid, Nigel isn't as reasonable. He seems like someone who can get petty because he realizes that the woman he had put on a pedestal has flaws.
And by the last page, he doesn't acknowledge his immature behavior. This is not a good sign, because it takes a life-threatening situation on Callie to get him to say the three words. The poor woman may need to suffer a concussion to get him to take out the trash in the future without him reminding her that she's a big bloody liar for cheating him out of nine years with Kwame. Instead, Callie has to keep apologizing all the way to the third last page. The poor dear has admitted from the start that she has wronged both Nigel and Kwame by keeping them apart, and she has tried so hard to make amends and let these two bond. How much longer does Callie have to keep paying for her past actions?
And then there's Kwame. Well, he starts out reasonably believable as a nine-year old, but as the story progresses, he starts to mutate into another creepy demon child, speaking like a forty-year old fan of Hallmark movies and become unrealistically invested in seeing his parents hook up.
On the bright side, Callie's relationship with her sisters is far more heartwarming than Callie's relationship with Nigel. Things can get sentimental as everyone hugs and talks about finer feelings, but at least I get the sense that these two won't make Callie feel like a villain for the rest of the duration of their relationship.
To conclude, Always In My Heart is a pleasant read, mostly because the heroine is a likable character and she has heartwarming rapport with her sisters. I'm not sure about the romance, however, as the hero doesn't seem like he's emotionally mature enough to move beyond past hurt to stop holding a grudge.
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