Owner of a Broken Heart
Romance author Cheris Hodges should consider moonlighting as a television writer. Her new African-American contemporary romance, Owner of a Broken Heart, which launches the Richardson Sisters series, reads like a primetime soap opera. The novel is one part sexy courtship and two parts melodrama. Had the ratio of this ‘romance cocktail’ been reversed, I would have better enjoyed the passionate love affair between Hodges’ protagonists.
Sports journalist Nina Richardson has a successful freelance career and a sexually satisfying, undefined relationship with a high school coach. Her life quickly unravels when a run-in with a sexist football player goes viral, and she discovers that her casual boyfriend has been sleeping around. In desperate need of breathing space, Nina retreats to her family’s South Carolina bed and breakfast. The first person to welcome her home is Richardson B&B’s handsome new marketing manager, Clinton Jefferson. Sparks fly and a hot ‘n’ heavy flirtation commences. As Nina and Clinton develop serious feelings for each other, their trust issues threaten to tear them apart. Caught between meddling sisters and vengeful saboteurs their future together is uncertain even if their love is true.
It takes time to settle into Owner of a Broken Heart. It starts out as an off-limits, fake dating romance. Then, Hodges quickly abandons both tropes to write a lusty romance with hot, but repetitive, sex, and the slow-paced plot is overstuffed with gratuitous drama that detracts from the narrative’s overall credibility. Setting descriptions, particularly of Richardson Bed & Breakfast, are regrettably sparse; and shouting matches, involving Nina and just about anyone else, are plentiful.
Nonetheless, I did find Hodges’ characters more or less compelling, and Nina and Clinton are a spirited couple. She is smart, fun, and rebellious; he is sweet, considerate, and honorable. Their connection is palpable; the time they spend together feels easy, comfortable. Although their relationship develops quickly, it’s fairly believable. In truth, I was most captivated by the Richardsons’ close-knit relationship. Nina’s adoring father, Sheldon, and her straight-talking sisters, Alex, Yolanda, and Robin. They interfere in each other’s live to the point of ridiculousness, but their fierce loyalty is endearing. Hodges creates a familial bond that evokes feelings of safety and care that I found comforting. Sadly, the number of times that women slap men in the novel counterbalances those heartwarming vibes. I believe that physical violence often occurs when words fail, but the Richardson women are thoughtful and articulate so I was surprised and dismayed to read scenes in which Nina and her sister resort to physical assault.
Owner of a Broken Heart demonstrates Cheri Hodges’ ability to craft interesting characters and a decent sexy love story. If she reins in the theatrics in future Richardson Sisters novels, then I could be persuaded to revisit the series.