Heartwood by Catherine Lane is the second book from this author, and a huge departure from her super cute debut, the contemporary sports romance The Set Piece. Heartwood has two stories threaded together—one in the present and one in the 1960s—both driving toward an intense climax and a satisfying ending.
Nikka has worked long and hard hours at the law firm for three years and has finally been moved up to the 10th floor as a mid-level associate in intellectual property law. When one of the firm’s partners gives her a chance to work on behalf of famous reclusive author Beth Walker, she leaps all over it. The first order of business is delivering cease-and-desist letters all over Steelhead Springs to businesses that thrive because of the Walker brand, and a restraining order against the author’s former cook, the bubbly and impulsive Maggie.
Maggie knows something isn’t right when she’s fired on the spot for asking about Beth Walker’s health. The more she digs, the more fishy things seem, until an announcement comes out that an undiscovered Beth Walker story is being released, along with letters she wrote decades prior that confirm rumours about her relationship with a famous film star. If Maggie can only get Nikka to listen to her, maybe they can save Beth and her private feelings from the past.
The characters in Heartwood are interesting and complex in both timelines. Nikka is determined to climb the ladder and become partner, and finds herself faced with a choice between doing what will advance her career and doing what’s right. Maggie has a good heart, but is known to be flighty, so she has to fight against that reputation to get her concerns for Beth Walker taken seriously. Josie is a mysterious young woman who shows up in town and ends up being just what Beth needs to come back to herself.
We get to see Beth in the present and in the past. When we see her in the 1960s, she’s in her early 20s and is working for a real estate agent when she’s hired to be a cook and companion for movie star Dawn Montgomery while her husband is filming overseas. Dawn encourages her writing, even outfitting a spare bedroom to give her a space to write, and spends time drawing Beth out, getting her to share her hopes and dreams. Beth falls for the older, glamorous woman, and carries that love with her into the present timeline where she’s confined against her will in her own home by the people who are meant to take care of her. We never really get to see Dawn’s perspective, and I wish we did because I would LOVE to see her inner life as she and Beth get to know each other and become involved, but even the little we do see is compelling and had me thinking for days. Beth grows so much in those last few chapters, and the ending is perfect for all of the characters in the present timeline.
The Writing Style
Heartwood is so different from The Set Piece that I almost couldn’t believe they were written by the same author, and I mean that in the best possible sense. Catherine Lane’s writing has grown by leaps and bounds between the two books, which makes me excited to see what she has for us next. Balancing the storytelling between two stories, revealing pieces of information at the right time, pacing everything just right to keep the reader interested in both narratives is no small feat, and she did it just right. I found myself torn between rushing to the end and savouring every second, and I was a very happy reader by the end of the book.
Oh goodness, everything? I loved both stories. I was enthralled by Beth and Dawn’s story, equally invested in Beth’s predicament in the present, and was delighted by watching Nikka and Maggie dance around their attraction to each other.
This is a spoiler, but some people may not like that Dawn is cheating on her husband, even if that husband is a jerk. I didn’t mind. That dude can kick rocks forever.
I loved Heartwood and highly recommend it. It’s not your typical lesbian romance, and that’s exactly why you should pick it up.
Excerpt from Heartwood by Catherine Lane
Dawn had scooted in beside her without saying a word. The silence was comforting at first since Beth hadn’t a clue about how to talk to a big-time movie star, but now the quiet was so heavy it almost weighed the car down.
“That’s some car. I’ve never seen one in person.” Beth jerked her head at the red Cadillac gliding in front of them. Her voice sounded odd to her own ears, but loads better than the silence. “Does he like it?”
“Probably more than me.” Dawn shot Beth a glance. “You’re not going to blab that to the tabloids are you?”
The idea was so ridiculous, Beth chuckled. “Definitely not. That’s not my style.”
“No. I don’t think it is.” Dawn relaxed against the seat back. “You have me at a disadvantage. You know my name. But I don’t know yours.”
“It’s Beth Walker.”
“So, Beth Walker. What’s your story?”
Beth chuckled again. “Me? I have no story. I’m a nobody.”
“I sincerely doubt that.”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9783955336745
- Publisher: Ylva Publishing
Catherine Lane Online
Note: I received a free review copy of Heartwood by Catherine Lane. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.