Change of Heart
Fans of the” love across the tracks” trope may find this romance appealing, with a wealthy Bostonian lawyer falling for a desperately poor heroine who grew up in a trailer in Appalachia. While I found parts enjoyable, I had trouble with some plot points, rendering this just an average read.
Nathaniel Cavanaugh rented a cottage in Lobster Cove for the summer for himself and his two young children in hopes of getting closer to them following their mother’s death nine months earlier. His marriage was filled with bitterness and fighting, and at the point he filed for divorce his wife died in an accident. His high-powered job leaves him little time for his kids while in Boston, and he hopes the summer will change things. But calls from work keep interrupting his plans; clearly he needs a nanny.
While out for the day with his children Nathaniel spots a young woman inappropriately and tackily dressed for the tourist town. While he’s watching the woman his young son Finn runs straight into the path of a trolley. Before Nathaniel can do anything, the woman rescues the boy, but manages to get injured and ruin her clothes in the effort.
Val McKinley came to Lobster Cove to apply for a job at a local art gallery, but her rescue of Finn caused her to miss the job interview. She has virtually no money and doesn’t know how she’ll replace her interview clothing. Val came to town looking for a job that would allow her to use her degree in art history, and also help her to fulfil her dream of going to Paris for an internship. Hurting badly, Val just wants Nathaniel to leave her alone, but the grateful father keeps trying to help her in any way possible.
Clearly this is a suspend disbelief story, as with no knowledge of her background, Nathaniel offers Val a job as his kids’ nanny within an hour of the accident. Seriously? A high powered attorney is going to offer a complete stranger a job as his children’s nanny without doing extensive background checks? Obviously we’re expected to buy into this solely because Val clicked with the kids in the minutes after the accident. Val turns him down, but then Nathaniel ups the ante with an offer she can’t refuse: plane fare to Paris, a high salary for the summer, and an internship at a major Boston art museum.
The whole setup seems unlikely. Not only does Nathaniel place his kids in the care of a complete stranger, but within days, Val is an integral part of the family; the two children adore her, she adores them, and Nathaniel is attracted to her in spite of himself. Val quickly falls in love with Nathaniel, but doesn’t expect anything to come of it.
It’s hard to get a clear read on Nathaniel. At times he’s a bit of a snob, cringing when his daughter copies Val’s accent, appalled when he learns Val attended a community college in West Virginia. There’s also a scene towards the end that has a bit of a Pretty Woman feel that left me questioning whether the two could really be equals in a relationship. But at other times Nathaniel is a strong defender of Val.
For the most part I liked Val. Her mother died when she was 10, her father became depressed and lost his job, and it was up to Val to care for the family. While in high school she worked two jobs and wore secondhand clothes. Her descriptions of the terror she felt for her family and how hungry they were, are truly touching. But some details of her character come across as a caricature.
Despite some problems I found A Change of Heart to be a quick, easy read, that was quite enjoyable in parts. But I just couldn’t get past the improbability of Nathaniel’s placing his children in Val’s care within hours of meeting.