Thirteen years ago, Evie’s firefighter husband was killed in the line of duty, leaving her to raise their young son, Cody, alone. Now, Cody is marrying the love of his life, and as he packs up his belongings, the house feels as empty as Evie’s heart. But for all her planning and mad organizational skills, Evie could never have anticipated the dramatic shift her life is about to make.
Tattooed, rough-around-the-edges Jack raises quite a few eyebrows in the tight-knit community of Banister Falls. Where Evie’s life is stream-lined, Jack’s approach to living is moment-by-moment. But as Evie gets drawn into Jack’s world—a world that isn’t as safe or predictable as the one she’s worked so hard to create—he challenges her to open her eyes to the problems outside the walls of the church.
Jack doesn’t make Evie feel comfortable, but he definitely makes her feel something. Something she hasn’t felt since Max passed away—or, maybe ever. Because even though Jack isn’t anything like her late husband, he just might be everything she needs.
Jack looked a little uncertain as he watched Raine waddle after his niece.
“Don’t worry,” Evie said softly. “Lily is in good hands.”
“It’s not that.” Jack turned to look at her. “I don’t know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything. If it doesn’t work out for some reason, Raine will understand. She knows there have been a lot of changes in Lily’s life.”
A shadow passed through Jack’s eyes. “That’s true.”
“How is she doing?”
“A lot better than I expected.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?”
“It makes me wonder what was going on between Cheryl and Trav before they got arrested.” Jack saw her expression and shook his head. “Trav isn’t like Nicki’s ex. He would never lay a hand on Cheryl, but when things aren’t going well, they tend to argue a lot. That kind of environment is hard on someone as sensitive as Lily.”
Evie imagined it must be hard on Jack too. “How are you doing?”
“I’m fine.” A smile edged up the corners of Jack’s lips, and it took Evie a moment to realize he was repeating the answer she’d given him after Betty had confronted her on Cody’s wedding day.
Evie smiled back. “Should I take it that means you need a cup of coffee?”
“You probably should.” Jack’s gaze dropped to her lips a split second before he looked away, but it didn’t matter. Evie’s memory made the leap from the comforting warmth of the coffee mug to the warmth of Jack’s fingers tracing the curve of her jaw.
And the warmth it ignited inside of Evie . . . hurt. The kind of sweet, prickly heat when the blood began to flow through your veins after a long time spent outside in the cold.
Something Evie had never expected feel again. She and Max had started dating when they were fifteen. Max had been her first love. Her first everything. After he died, it felt like her heart had died too. Evie had never been attracted to another man. Couldn’t imagine being held in someone else’s arms.
The short take
A beautiful contemporary romance that doesn’t gloss over the messiness of life, and yet is filled with hope, warmth, and genuine love for others.
I have really enjoyed both of Kathryn Springer’s Bannister Falls novels, and while this one could be read as a stand-alone without getting lost, The Dandelion Field contains a lot of Evie’s backstory (not to mention being a worthwhile read in itself!) and I think having read that one will make the reading of The Hearts We Mend a richer experience. And just a warning, if you haven’t read The Dandelion Field yet there is a little spoiler in the first paragraph below.
Both novels in this series are stories about what happens when life gets messy; in particular, how the decisions made by others can affect our own lives, and how we choose to react to that. In Evie’s case, her son Cody is about to become a father and a husband at the ripe old age of 18 (the story told in The Dandelion Field). Just because Evie has come to love both Raine (Cody’s girlfriend) and Raine’s mother, Genevieve, doesn’t mean that she’s completely come to terms with this bewildering departure from the future she was envisaging.
Jack has moved to Bannister Falls to support his brother, Travis, who is still trying to fill the emptiness inside him with drugs and alcohol. Travis’s wife, Cheryl, is also a recovering alcoholic, and together they have a ten-year-old daughter, Lily. Their move to Bannister Falls is an attempt at a fresh start, but Jack knows that a change of scenery can’t change a person on the inside. He also knows he can’t fight Travis’s battles for him; but he can make sure he’s there for him – and be a source of stability for Lily. If that means he’s also on hand to help out Cheryl’s sister, Nicki – a single mum of three who’s picked herself up after leaving her abusive boyfriend – then all the better.
To help with living costs Jack has agreed to renovate a run-down apartment block in a not-so-salubrious part of town in return for reduced rent. In doing so, he’s become the go-to guy for the assortment of characters who live in the building. He has an open door policy, which means he may or may not have the shift-worker from upstairs sleeping on his couch while his wife runs an in-home daycare, he has a never ending list of maintenance jobs, and he doesn’t know how many people will show up for spaghetti for dinner each night.
Evie and Jack are such opposites in personality, and even in their life circumstances in many ways, and yet they complemented each other beautifully. I also loved the way in which Evie and Jack came together through reaching out to others – and ended up reaching out to each other in the process.
There were really so many things to love about this novel: the diverse cast of characters (including much loved characters from the previous novel), plenty of dialogue and character interaction, and most of all, the way in which Evie and Jack’s friendship grew and deepened their attraction to one another. I’m not sure whether there is another novel planned in this series, but regardless, I will be looking out for Kathryn’s next release.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel through BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 8 March 2016
Author’s website: http://www.kathrynspringer.com/
Previous book in the series