Head Over Heels
There are some books that are very hard for me to grade. Some elements of the plot hold zero appeal to me and turn me off, but I know other readers will love them. This is one of those books. One of the things that you should love to read about if you want to read Head Over Heels is kids. Unfortunately, it’s not a very romantic topic as far as I’m concerned.
Nan Springfield’s husband Phil, the town minister, dies in a car wreck after hearing a local disc jockey accuse him of stealing church scholarship money. Harris Tweed, a.k.a. Harry Woolery, the DJ who made the accusations, feels guilty about causing Nan trouble. Money is tight, she’s going to lose her home, and she’s raising three kids. She won’t give Harry the time of day, but he wants to help her, so he disguises himself as Santa one night, and uses his real name. He insinuates himself into her life, and they eventually fall in love. However, the truth about Harry must eventually come out.
I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book about two sweeter people. Nan lives for her kids and her home, and Harry lives to help her. Nan doesn’t cuss or hold grudges or believe that her dead husband did anything wrong. It’s really hard to like someone with no faults because they don’t seem real. That was the case with Nan. Even though she suspected her husband the night he died, once he was dead, he could do no wrong. I understand that guilt and grief could cause such reactions, but they added up to a bland character.
Harry was nice, too, but he was also desperate. Desperate to help Nan, to assuage his guilty conscience, to be with her after he fell in love with her, and to make things right after she found out the truth. He also didn’t seem to realize how his lies made things worse. The more he lied, the worse things were. He had a strange sense of rationalization. On the other hand, he did get points for being a caring father and family man. Once he decided to help Nan, she couldn’t get rid of him. He helped her keep her house and tried to help her keep her foster kids.
The secondary characters consisted of Nan’s four kids, her sister-in-law, her brother-in-law, and Harry’s dad. A lot of the plot involved Nan’s kids-one biological and three foster, plus Harry’s thoughts of Nan’s belly “bursting with his child” (explosions came to mind). The most interesting subplot involved the sister-in-law and her past. I’d have liked to have seen that more fully explored. The brother-in-law was a creep from his first appearance, and Nan’s inability to see that annoyed me even more.
Stephanie Mittman has a good writing style, but the characters in Head Over Heels never came alive for me – I never cared what happened to them. This is her first contemporary romance, and many of her Americana historicals are beloved (A Taste of Honey even earned DIK status from one of our toughest reviewers). Perhaps there was less of a focus on children in those earlier books. Perhaps the characters were more realistic, perhaps they had a few flaws. Perhaps those other books were based on more than miscommunication, lies, and lies by omission.
I have a strong sense many more readers will like this book more than I did, but there you have it. I’d love to hear from those of you who read this book on the AAR Reviews Message Board.