Afternoon Delight: Here in My Heart by Anna DeStefano

Afternoon Delight: Here in My Heart by Anna DeStefanoHere in My Heart by Anna DeStefano

Series: #1 Echoes of the Heart
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Montlake Romance on September 30, 2014
Pages: 163
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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four-stars  

When I’m in the mood for something that challenges my emotions with the story of two hurting people that really make the romance a hard fought for thing, Anna DeStefano’s books are some of the ones I grab for. Seriously people. They are not for the faint of heart when it comes to tough romance and broken characters because these characters will get you mumbling irritating words, crying for their circumstances and just begging them to do what they have to do for their own slice of happiness. Well now that I’ve thoroughly frightened you away…
This is the first book in a new series, but its set in the Seasons of the Heart world right there in Chandler, GA. The community, the supporting characters and the backstory all carry over. It is truly a new series and the reader can start with this book, but personally, I’m glad I had read the books from the other series first.

The story opens when Brad Douglas, the prodigal Chandler son, is called back to his Grandmother Vi’s deathbed and to fulfill her dying wish. Her wish is something that has been long past due and he is determined to fulfill it. Too bad it takes two for this to happen.

Dru has made a good life for herself in Chandler. She grew up the foster child of the Dixons, wonderful parents and supporters, and now due to the generous trust of Vivian Douglas she has a home with the older crotchety woman and the woman’s family legacy, her diner. All the contentedness and happiness are now in danger of disappearing forever because Vi is dying and Vi has instructed Dru to call back the very man she has been avoiding for seven long years. She threw her wide-open teenage vulnerable heart at him when she flung herself into his arms for a kiss before he pushed her away, got drunk, slept with her foster brother’s girlfriend which was the impetus for Oliver to leave and then he left town- or at least that’s how she wants to see it because it allows her to hold onto her hate and anger which are much safer feelings than the ones buried just a little deeper that are also true.

Vi’s request requires Brad and Dru to live in the old house and work the diner together for the few remaining days before Vivian dies then they will split the home and diner as their inheritance. Brad has made a good life for himself in Savannah and he will go back there when its over just to give Dru the space she feels she needs. He never wanted to hurt her and he hates the way she thinks of him, but he knows that with her some mistakes he’ll never stop paying for. But just once, he would like her to stop pretending he doesn’t exist and acknowledge him. He would like her to actually listen to his explanation. Too bad she is so hung up on her fears and trust issues that she can’t.

Alrighty then, this was another difficult one of course and thank gravy and biscuits it was a novella-length. I couldn’t have stuck it out if it had been much longer because the heroine pushed me over the line of patience with her hang-ups that caused her behavior toward the hero. I just couldn’t connect with her. If she had gone through some hellacious childhood and broken relationships alone with nobody to support her then yeah, Dru would make sense to me. But other than starting in foster care (with a wonderful family that claimed her as their own), her life was pretty good so I just couldn’t excuse her. She tried to make Brad’s one- yes folks ONE and not the several she felt she could tic off her fingertips- teenage mistake the problem and treat him like a villain for years (which did not set well with me b/c the poor guy took to heart her wrongful blame and added some of his own), but it is really her buried fears and lack of trust that are the big trouble. I wanted to like her because outside the Brad issue she was compassionate, loving, and loyal but that only lasted so long in the face of her constant running away both physically and emotionally. Denial world seemed to really work well for her and she was happy there so I wasn’t more than mildly vested in the romance other than wanting Brad to have what he worked so hard for with Dru.

I haven’t said much about Brad, but he was worth putting up with Dru. His is definitely a prodigal son story. He screwed up all in one night in his late teens and it affected Dru, his best friend, Oliver and Oliver’s girlfriend, Selene as well as disappointing the grandmother that reared him. She firmly gave him a wake up call and he took the push out of the nest to go away and turn his life around. He does this and only has the unresolved situation with Dru left to fully put the past to rest, but Dru won’t let him. I loved watching him put himself on the line time and again to fix things with her. I loved that he was willing to do it in front of the whole community so his sincerity wouldn’t be in question- not that she still didn’t question it. He loved his grandmother and Dru so deeply so yeah, Brad’s a keeper.

And Vivian wasn’t a main character in the sense that she had narration parts, but this colorful, gracious scene-stealer was there- scheming and guiding Dru and Brad even in her last moments:

“My dear,” she said, “the secret to gambling on people is not to worry if you’re right, or what will happen if you’re wrong. It’s to go all in, no matter what happens. Figure out what you think. What you want. Then go for broke as often as you can.” Loc. 65% Vivian Douglas, here in My Heart

The side story involving the young foster child, Lisa, was totally heartwarming too. It is always neat the way the author deftly writes portion of the narration for the kids’ points of view and even tells the adult’s story through the kid’s eyes like Lisa watching her older foster sister, Dru with Brad.

Oh, and may I say that the Dixons are my heroes, angels without wings. This couple are recurring minor characters from the other series and they are just the most giving, selfless, compassionate people the way they parent and support their foster kids. They love what most see as the unlovable and have faith in them long after most would give up. I loved the scene with Mr. Dixon and Dru when he was trying to help her get past her fears:

“It’s going to be okay,” Joe promised. “Think about now, Dru, not the past. Think about tomorrow. Be sure of what you want before you throw away something you’ll never get back.” Loc. 44% Joe, Here in My Heart

To sum up, the heroine was a source of exasperation for me, but the rest of the story and where it seems to be going as a series is an exciting promise. I would recommend this to Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction fans, but again, only if you’re into a story that isn’t easy in the road to happiness.

My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for my honest review.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • Lovely review hun!! I usually have trouble with heroines, for some reason some authors have a hard time making them a solid character as the hero. I do like a story that has some good conflict, so maybe I will try this one out sometime.

    • I struggle with heroines too. This story felt triumphant in the end b/c it was so hard along the way to get that HEA. Worth a read for sure!

  • Oh I am thinking I’d want to pinch her. I can get if it’s a really really solid reason but just doesn’t sound the case. Brad though. Gah he does sound good. I love seeing a hero vulnerable and putting it out there especially if he’s had a flub and fixing his life. Glad he was able to save it for ya!

    • You start out thinking she has a case even though there is that sense that she’s just really holding onto a grudge since its been so long, but then the truth comes out as Brad’s side is told and then she has to face the fact that it never really was about Brad ‘destroying’ everything, but about her fear of rejection. She would rather make him into a monster than be vulnerable for his rejection. Even the little foster girl tries to tell her to cowgirl up. Ugh…patience is needed. Fortunately, Brad had the stuff in spades.

      • Okay I know it’s not funny but cowgirl up just made me roll. It’s bad when a kid is telling ya you’re being exasperating like that.

        • LOL Sorry, yeah, she didn’t actually tell her big foster sister to ‘cowgirl’ up. She told her to stop being scared to live. It had an impact, but it still wasn’t the turning point for this poor woman. The author was a social worker so she’s got a lot of expertise creating these damaged characters in her series, but I guess for me, this was a big too much authenticity reading about someone so consumed by fear and mistrust.