Heart Breaker is the story of a country music duo that is as skilled at hurting each other as they are at recording number one hits. When the powers that be decide that personal feelings are secondary to business, Chance and Jolene have to decide exactly how much of their heart they’re each willing to risk. Are they going to make a break-up album or a make-up album and how many times will they have to make and remake that decision? It’s a sassy story that veers towards NA, but is enjoyable overall.
As alluded to above, Jolene and Chance make up country music’s hottest writing and performing duo. However, they also seem to make up about 90% of the town’s gossip with their splashed-across-the-headlines breakup. While they want nothing to do with each other, their recording label feels differently and essentially forces them into a secluded writing retreat to work out their differences.
This trope is tried and true in Romancelandia and in larger fiction. Our hero and heroine get trapped in a secluded somewhere and are forced to work things out between them and it’s a trope I typically enjoy. However, this one takes a turn right from the beginning when we learn that Jolene and Chance are two of the most stubborn and non-communicative humans you’ve probably read about in a long time. Honestly, I wanted to smack them each about the head a few times.
They’re from different levels of Nashville royalty. Jolene (or JoJo, as Chance calls her) is a newbie. She has recently rocketed up the ranks of country music stardom, and is planning on doing everything in her power to stay there. She’s business savvy, knowing her voice and her body are only going to last for so long and only get her so far. She needs to secure her future and do it quickly. Her heart, which the readers quickly realize is still firmly planted with Chance, is the least of her concerns. Her complete lack of self-awareness on this front leads to overreactions instead of questions and communication, which then leads to more drama than is even remotely necessary.
For his part, Chance is still completely hung up on JoJo and knows it. He’s frustrated by her, annoyed about her choices and reveals in a lot of his inner monologues that he doesn’t really know her at all. He doesn’t fully appreciate her need to cement her public legacy, as he’s from Nashville royalty. However, he’s bound and determined not to make some of the same private choices that his forefathers have made and wants a life outside the public eye.
You see the problem, I’m sure.
There is so much going for this novel in terms of my own reading catnip. It has musicians, behind-the-scenes business activity, sassy females – I really should love it and when I read the synopsis, I was completely in. However, I was only only a few scant pages into the story when I began to get antsy. Based on the emotional maturity of both characters, this really should be categorized as NA and I had to adjust my brain to see them in that light; not as fully-fledged adults but as emergent ones, still flailing against themselves and the world. Once I did that, the book improved and I could get on board with their journey.
They have a few on-again, off-again moments, a few brushes with the paparazzi, and more than a few intimacies. The sensuality rating is hot for a reason; Ms. McCarthy spends a lot of time letting us know that while these two may not always be emotionally compatible, they certainly are physically. Not only are their bodies described in detail, but their reactions to the other person are as well. There’s a lot of foreplay in this book, as you can imagine with the stop-start-stop-start nature of some the mind games JoJo employs throughout. Lawd above does she want Chance – and she is too stubborn to let herself fully fall, but not too stubborn to let him remind her why she still wants him.
They do, of course, pull their heads out of their proverbial asses, get over themselves and find their happily ever after. There’s a particularly unfortunate detour with a potential writing partner that delays that resolution, but they find it, I promise. And when we arrive at the epilogue we see that all their dreams have come true. It appears that Heart Breaker is the first in a new series for Ms. McCarthy, in which the novels are all set in Nashville. For a good portion of the story, I wasn’t sure I’d want to come back to this world, but now that I’ve seen her full treatment of Chance and JoJo, I think I’d revisit and see what other types of people she’s going to populate it with.
I usually base my romance rating on how satisfied I was with the HEA, how much I was invested in the couple and how their story ended. As I said above, once I adjusted my expectations for the story and read the story Ms. McCarthy was writing versus the one I felt I was sold, I did enjoy it.