A second-chance romance with secrets at its center, Crossing Hearts is a strong start to a promising series set in the Shenandoah Valley. After years of abusing it, Hunter’s shoulder has finally given out and he’s in dire need of physical therapy. Imagine his surprise when the woman who administers it is his childhood sweetheart, Emerson, who left town years ago and vowed never to return. As they get to know each other as adults, they have decisions to make about futures and plans and trust.
While Hunter played football in high school and may have even been good enough to go pro, he had no interest in leaving the family farm, Cross Creek. He lives and breathes that land, and while working with family drives him nuts, it is clear he doesn’t desire any other life. His heart was shattered when Emerson left him right after graduation to head off to a glittering medical career, and while I wouldn’t say he’s stayed bitter at her, he certainly hasn’t gotten over her.
Emerson did go off to a glittering career, but not one in surgery as her overbearing and perfectionist parents wanted. Instead, she chose physical therapy and ended up working for a NFL franchise and making quite a name for herself. She was determined to never set foot back in their small town again. (This determination is something I always find adorable in romance heroes and heroines, by the way. It’s almost its own trope at this point, it happens so frequently as a precursor to other events.)
She’s successful in that endeavor, until she’s diagnosed with relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis and finds that her body can no longer carry her dreams. Stubbornly, she decides to keep this from everyone and just move back home. She spends the first part of the book avoiding her parents, who are extremely disappointed in her decision to leave such a great career behind, and she makes a valiant effort to dodge Hunter.
Hunter, you’ll be glad to know, cannot be dodged. As they rekindle their romance, he lovingly forces her to tell him what the deal is and she allows him to slowly start helping her. I could tell this was a herculean task for a woman such as Emerson, and its one I empathize with. I myself suffer from a chronic disorder and I used to be absolute rubbish at accepting help. I also hid a lot of my symptoms and my pains from my family and friends, although for different reasons to Emerson’s. I also discovered that what Emerson eventually did – suffering alone for stubbornness’ sake – is a silly martyrdom when you have folks around you who love you and want to be helpful and supportive. So while others may roll their eyes at some of her decisions, I was in there with her and I get it.
What didn’t work as well for me is her dynamic with her parents. I don’t want to explore too much here for the sake of spoilers, but the resolution of their conflict felt a touch too convenient and took me out of the story a bit.
The new love Emerson and Hunter find, however, is warm, comforting and real. Not only have they grown up a bit, but they now have Emerson’s MS to contend with. Those factors force their relationship to take a new shape and a new pace and Ms. Kincaid’s treatment of that growth is lovely. I could feel the couple learning the new versions of the other person and falling in love all over again.
Overall, Crossing Hearts is a charming book with a side of steamy romance and I think any fans of the tropes it plays with will greatly enjoy it.