Fierce at Heart explores a modern marriage of convenience between friends who want to support each other as they take on new, post military, careers. Isla Petersen had been Adam Kincaid’s commanding officer during a difficult tour in Afghanistan. A few years later, Adam is in Toronto about to graduate from a year long fire fighting program and Isla has finished with culinary school and participating in a series of pop up bakeries. They have coffee. They have friendly sex. She isn’t interested in more and they agree to be supportive friends who are soon to go their separate ways. Not long after Adam returns to his hometown, he has a reason to propose a marriage of convenience to Isla and she accepts. I loved the relationship between them. They have their own goals and are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. They are beautifully imperfect and working so hard to be best friends. I loved them and wanted them to succeed. I didn’t need more than these two slightly battered hearts learning to be vulnerable and in love.
So here’s the thing I hated and two reasons why I hated it. Isla’s ex-husband forces himself back into her life and is vaguely threatening. I hated it because 1 – it was entirely unnecessary. And 2 – it was entirely unnecessary trauma. Having an ex-husband who gas-lit her and made love feel transactional was plenty of drama. He was a barrier for Isla to overcome before she could trust herself to rely on Adam. Isla was working on undoing that damage, and Adam was helping through his supportive actions. Having the ex show up, cause drama, and then have no discernable impact on character development or plot felt like a gratuitous helping of trauma. As a reader, I didn’t need it. This past year has narrowed my tolerance for unnecessary trauma. Not every reader is going to be bothered by the thing I hated, just like not every reader is going to love Adam and Isla as much as I did.
Fierce at Heart is the first Zoe York book I’ve read. It’s second book in a series and connected to an even larger series, but it was easily read as a stand alone. I received this as an advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.