The Heart of a Hero
I have a weakness for island romances, and this romance, set on a fictional island off the coast of Massachusetts, didn’t disappoint. I found this to be a lovely, quick read featuring a truly tortured hero and a heroine recovering from a broken heart. While the characters – in particular the hero – had real problems, it wasn’t depressing in any way.
After suffering serious injuries while in the military in Afghanistan, Jake Meyers moved to Naushatucket Island. Jake can’t forgive himself for his actions in the war and lives in relative isolation. Jake suffers from serious lingering pain, nightmares, and daytime flashbacks and thinks of himself as a dead man. He has no contact with family or friends, and only minimal contact with his fellow islanders.
Jake isn’t the only one to seek escape on the island. Zoe Hamilton purchased her old family home on Naushatucket and intends to spend several months there, while recovering from a broken heart. Shortly after moving in, Zoe’s dog escapes and digs a hole in a neighbor’s yard. The neighbor – Jake – is not amused.
Jake and Zoe have a few cold interactions relating to her dog. Jake wants nothing to do with Zoe. Zoe thinks of him as barbed wire, all sharp and unapproachable. But of course, they’re destined to butt heads.
Zoe’s house is more run-down than she expected. After discovering bats, she decides to hire a handyman. When she asks for a recommendation at the local hardware store, she learns that Jake is the best – and only – contractor on the island.
If Jake had his way, his contacts with Zoe would be minimal, only related to the work he does for her. But while she’s hurting herself, Zoe is also a meddler. She writes a syndicated column providing answers on love and life to readers, and seems to try to solve not only her readers problems, but those of the people she meets in real life.
The focus of the book is on Jake and Zoe. There were a few other characters, but they played only a minor role. Both Jake and Zoe are fully described, and felt like real people to me. The author showed skill in bringing not only Jake and Zoe, but also the island to life.
My main problem is that I would like to have spent more time with Jake and Zoe. Jake has serious emotional problems and they realistically hampered a quick relationship between the two. I initially thought that things were wrapped up a bit too neatly and too quickly at the end, but changed my mind after reading the epilog, which takes place a year later. It’s clear that the year hasn’t been easy, and that all of Jake’s demons didn’t mysteriously vanish. I recognize that the category line has page limitations, but would have enjoyed seeing more of that intervening year in a longer format.
In the past year I’ve read a number of romances featuring wounded ex-military heroes struggling to recover from their experiences in Afghanistan or Iraq. Some have worked for me, while others haven’t. This not only held my interest, it left me wanting more. While I would have liked a bit more of Zoe and Jake’s romance, I will definitely pick up future books by the author. This was good, really good.