Kimani, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86260-3
Contemporary Romance, 2012
Surrender My Heart is the second book in Kayla Perrin Harts in Love series. There is a story arc in all three books about the Hart sisters’ efforts to locate their MIA mother, however, so you may want to try and read the books in the correct sequence.
This time, it’s Natalie Hart’s turn to get a story. She had made peace with her sister Deanna for stealing and marrying Deanna’s high school boyfriend, but if only her marriage to that guy, Vance Cooper, has an equally happy ending. Not only did he cheat on her, when the story opens, he divorces her, keeps the house, and shacks up publicly with the new – and pregnant – girlfriend. Natalie returns to Cleveland to attend her aunt’s funeral, and she finds herself staying to take a break from the mess that was once her marriage. She finds herself involved in a local fundraising effort for some charity, and that’s how she finds herself constantly in close proximity with Michael Jones, the football star who has opened a restaurant in the neighborhood. But is she cut out to have another thing going with yet another professional athlete?
This is a cute story, and I mean that in a good way. The focus is mostly on the romance, or rather, the way Natalie even moves on from her ex-husband to her new beau, and it’s a well-paced tale with some charming and occasionally heartwarming moments of Natalie bonding and getting along well with her sisters. It’s not often I come across stories of sisterhood in solidarity, as romance novels nowadays are more about men banding together for never-ending sequel opportunities, and Ms Perrin serves up some good moments here. These scenes aren’t sentimental or corny – just done right.
The romance pales in comparison to the sisterhood moments, though. The story is told mostly from Natalie’s point of view, so Michael remains some kind of trophy for Natalie after having to put up with the wrong guy for so long. I have no idea why he’s attracted to Natalie apart from her refusal to go out with him perks his intrigue. I can understand why Natalie eventually warms up to him, even if a part of me feels that this is just a rebound romance, but Michael’s attraction to Natalie is just there. He’s written to be Natalie’s perfect new boyfriend that is better than the old model in every way.
One thing I personally find disappointing here is how the characters’ jobs turn out to be window dressing. Michael is said to be a football star, but that’s just an excuse to have people squealing and fawning over him. There aren’t any genuine sense that he is a “real” football player – I don’t get any insight into his career or even his passion in the game. Similarly, Natalie’s said to be this capable fundraiser person, but her abilities are informed. I never get any sense of where she gets such mad skills at raking in the moolah for charity, what her passions are, or what she wants for herself in life. Like Michael, Natalie doesn’t seem like a real person, more like a collection of habits, abilities, and angst without any cohesiveness to bind them all together to make one distinct character.
Still, even if the romance is a bit ho-hum, Surrender My Heart has enough charms to make it a pretty good read. There is a charming old-school “mostly romance” feel to this story. The lack of frills like spy subplots, dramatic murders, and the out of the blue “suspense drama, ooh!” thing – the last of which plagues the previous book in the series, heh – only makes it easier for me appreciate this story.