Desert Isle Keeper
Hearts on Hold
Sometimes I find myself slowing down as I read a book because I truly want to savor it, and Hearts on Hold is definitely a book to savor. This tale of a literature professor and a children’s librarian finding love is one of the more romantic novels I’ve read in a long time. By turns sweet and sexy, this story is a delight.
The beginning of this book introduces the heroine and her work world very well. We see Dr. Victoria Reese’s intelligence and competence come shining through in a faculty meeting. And we also see what she’s up against in the form of a dictatorial, narrow-minded department chair trying every means at his disposal to shoot down her idea of creating an internship for students interested in library work. I’ve seen people put lots of energy into telling audiences what microaggressions are. Reid paints them vividly on the page, and it sets an unmistakable tone for the reader.
The daughter of a successful Marine and his very driven wife, Victoria has spent her entire life knowing that she has to have a plan and that she needs to execute it every time. She’s pretty tightly wound, but honestly, I could see why. And I could also see why she and John Donovan would be each other’s perfect match.
John is fairly open about his ADHD in the book, and we can see where staying on track and being organized poses a real challenge for him. However, he has ways to cope (not to mention that organization is Victoria’s superpower) and just as we get to see Victoria shine at the university, we also get to see John connecting with children and doing work he is obviously both skilled at and for which he has a real passion.
Speaking of passion, the romance between John and Victoria has plenty of heat. John somewhat jokingly refers to their arrangement as “a sordid affair,” and yet there’s a real sweetness about their deepening connection. That’s not to say that there isn’t also a fair amount of steaminess. Not only does Reid write some very passionate love scenes, but they are perfectly timed to show the emotional arc between the characters. I see reviewers write often about pacing in suspense plots, but this book has near perfect pacing in its emotional development, and that makes it a delight to read.
On the surface, this tale of a professor and a librarian putting together a college internship might sound like a fairly straightforward plot. However, the author takes this book into some very deep territory and that complexity makes the story go from good to amazing. Given Victoria’s status as a Black professor in a primarily white, upper crust school as well as the fact that John himself is white, there are plenty of opportunities to explore issues of race and identity. As a white reader, I’m sure there are things I missed as I read. However, I still appreciated seeing how Reid’s characters grappled with these issues and I came away from the story with empathy for just how much Victoria had to deal with that some of her white counterparts in academia do not.
And I can’t end this review without also mentioning how much I enjoyed seeing Victoria and John’s family and friends on the page. Both Victoria and John have strong friendships with people they can trust as sounding boards, and I really enjoyed the glimpses I got into those sides of their lives. John is also caring for his Black niece while his stepsister works overseas. Through this circumstance, we not only get to see John connecting with and building a strong relationship with his niece, but we also get to see this bringing John and Victoria even closer together emotionally.
If you’re looking for a book that brings plenty of depth, passion and sweetness, do check out Hearts on Hold. This beautiful story is a real delight, and I suspect this will end up being one of the reading highlights of my year.