Monday, June 24, 2013

Bonus Review: Hold on My Heart

Hold on My Heart
By Tracy Brogan
Montlake Romance
Release Date: June 25, 2013

With a single click of a mouse, Libby Hamilton ended her career as a corporate events planner. She hit “Reply All” in error and went public with her emphatically negative opinion of her boss. Not only was she fired but the story of her error has made the rounds, making remote the likelihood of her finding another job in Chicago. Her boyfriend of almost four years is eager to keep his distance, physically and emotionally, and Libby has moved back to the family home in Monroe, Illinois. Her father, a retired history teacher with a personal history of unsuccessful projects, has just bought a historic one-room schoolhouse that he plans to turn into an old-fashioned ice-cream parlor, and her long-suffering mother, also a teacher, is dealing with a hypercritical mother-in-law. Older sister Ginny, who teaches at the local high school, is married and pregnant with her first child, and free-spirited younger sister Marti, a college senior, has just announced her engagement to a jousting instructor with a dragon tattoo. Jobless and suddenly single, Libby is drafted into helping them all, but most of her time is taken up with her father’s project, a project that is made more interesting by the presence of a hunky builder.

Tom Murphy, a builder and restoration specialist, is hired by Peter Hamilton to restore the old school building. A taciturn widower with a teenage daughter, Tom is still struggling with grief and guilt a year after his wife’s death and trying to persuade his daughter that she belongs with him rather than with her maternal grandparents with whom she’s been living since her mother’s death. He is thankful for the job that promises work through the winter, but he’s not interested in the complications that Libby Hamilton promises. She talks too much, leads him to revealing more than he’s comfortable with, and stirs feelings that leave him restless and guilty.

The popularity of romantic comedy leads to the term being too loosely applied at times. At its best, romantic comedy is a genre in which the protagonists, realistically drawn adults who are equals in mind, body, and spirit (although not always in social status) meet, engage in quips and ripostes, encounter obstacles (often their own confusion), and ultimately understand that the other is the right person for him/her. Sexual tension may be prevalent, but the relationship is not about sex; it’s about resolving conflicts and moving to a happy union of the lovers. Hold on Your Heart meets these criteria. Hold on My Heart is a romantic comedy with humor, heart, and characters quirky or poignant.

It’s easy to root for Libby and Tom, both engaging, credible characters. Their romance is an appealing blend of sweet and heat with some laugh-out-loud moments and some heart-touching ones. Libby’s family, individually and collectively, are endearing, amusing scene-stealers. Some of my favorite scenes were those involving family interactions. A bridal shop scene with all the Hamilton women is as memorable for its believable sibling interactions ass for its comedy.

Brogan’s Crazy Little Thing is a RITA finalist in the Best First Book category, and I think Hold on My Heart is even better. If you like romance that evokes laughter and tears and gives you characters you can believe in, I highly recommend this book.

Libby Hamilton’s family is a bit unusual in romance fiction in that it is an “intact family,” that is both parents are still living and still married to one another and there are no estrangements within the family. Can you think of other families in romance novels to whom this description also applies?

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