In my many years of reading and reviewing I have paid little to no attention to Publishers. I pre-ordered Charish Reid’s newest book Hearts on Hold based on emmalita’s review of the ARC. I knew nothing else about the book, its author, or the publishing house. When I opened my nook and found that this was a Carina Press book, home of Cannonball favorite Lucy Parker, I was downright delighted.
Hearts on Hold is the story of Dr. Victoria Reese, English professor at Pembroke University and John Donovan, Children’s Librarian of the town ibrary. Their meet cute is John attending a meeting set up by his boss with Dr. Reese in order to work out an internship program for her University. There are sparks, and when Victoria starts shadowing John at the Library in order to get a handle on what would be entailed in the internship program they also decide to have themselves a sordid affair, except that they each have different definitions and expectations of that phrase.
Victoria and John are great characters existing in an interesting world. Victoria is one of a handful of black professors at her University and is constantly fighting with her Department Head for respect for herself, her female coworkers, and their courses which are not the stodgy courses preferred by the Department Head. She is also wound tighter than a top and in constant battle with her mother’s expectations and interferences in her life and dealing with hinted at but not named Anxiety. John is the sexy, long-haired, tattooed Children’s Librarian who is used to a certain amount of lowered expectations but knows the importance of his work and how to cope with his ADD. He is temporarily in custody of his niece while his sister travels to Sweden for work for two months and is having to adjust from being the fun uncle to the guardian. They each have their own network of friends and family who know them well and engage in the kinds and types of conversations that feel real, and often made me laugh along. I seriously loved John’s Moms (biological and step), their friendship, and their co-parenting of the very much adult John. They handled his broken heart the way that any adult in their late thirties would hope to be treated.
The ways in which each carry their baggage into their burgeoning relationship shows Reid’s writing strengths. Victoria is using strict rules, schedules, and tamping down her emotions to get through the difficulties in life and as she and John become closer she is slowly letting the masks fall – partly because he recognizes that they are in fact just that. John struggles with feelings of inadequacy as he must work twice as hard often to accomplish basic, expected tasks due to his mental wiring. He is also naturally open and warm, quick with honest terms of endearment and finds himself wanting Victoria to meet him halfway, to be the mask-less version he sees when they are alone and simply be with him, no planned affair. Victoria has things she hasn’t dealt with yet and ends up hurting him, but as this is a Romance, we know that they’ll piece it back together.
Reid deftly handles this complicated web of emotions, at no point does any of the action feel ill-timed or misplaced. Character motivations are crystal clear. With any new to me romance author I had to get used to how Reid writes her sexy scenes, certain vocabulary caught me off-guard and pulled me out, but that’s just because I don’t use that terminology, but I quickly caught on to Reid’s style and enjoyed it greatly. I hope very much that she has books planned for the side characters whose potential relationships are hinted at (Chris and Jessi especially) but whatever she writes next I’m in, and planning on going back and reading her first novel The Write Escape.
I’ll leave you with Reid discussing her own writing, “I think I said something self-deprecating about finding joy in writing stuff that wasn’t considered “high-brow.” Looking back on it, I regret being so sheepish and insecure. Love stories, if told right, can be magical and transcendent. There’s nothing “low-brow” about falling in love.”