sweet hearts short storiesSweet Hearts is a collection of novellas by popular Bold Strokes Books authors Melissa Brayden, Rachel Spangler, and Karis Walsh. Each story features a side character from one of their previous novels.

In Melissa Brayden’s Firework, Lucy Danaher, best friend and business partner to Emory in Heart Block, clashes with Kristin James, a reporter and environmental activist planning an article that will paint her newswire service in a negative light. Despite the infuriating interview and their obvious ideological differences, it only takes a few encounters with Kristin at her favourite local lesbian bar for Lucy to realize their chemistry might be too good to ignore.

In Getting Serious, Rachel Spangler brings back Lisa Knapp, Joey’s best friend and wingman from LoveLife. Maid of ill repute at Joey’s wedding (because she could never possibly be a maid of honour), Lisa is known to regularly deflect emotionally honest moments with a cocky joke and a smile, avoiding any hint of the life coaching principles that brought Joey and Elaine together in the first place. Of course, it’s just her luck that the only person who can catch her eye and keep up with her banter at the wedding is Marty, Elaine’s life coach.

Risk Factor by Karis Walsh features Myra Owens, Kate’s closest friend in Worth the Risk. To honour her brother’s memory, Myra starts a therapeutic riding program for veterans with physical and mental health injuries. What she doesn’t expect is to be so attracted to Ainslee, whose attitude reminds Myra so much of her brother before he killed himself that it scares her. Ainslee makes great strides physically and is clearly attracted to Myra, but can Myra take a chance on her?

The Characters

The characters are likeable and worked for me across all three stories.

If you’ve read a Melissa Brayden book before, you know what to expect and you won’t be disappointed because her characters are all quick witted with big hearts.

Rachel Spangler impressed me with her character work in Getting Serious because she managed to clearly establish who Lisa and Marty were despite the entire story taking place in less than 72 hours.

Karis Walsh sensitively portrays the frustration of learning to live with a new disability through Ainslee, and the pain of living as a survivor of suicide loss through Myra.

The Writing Style

These are all seasoned authors, so the quality of writing is solid. The novellas stand alone, but I enjoyed revisiting familiar characters.

The Pros

These are complete stories and each can be read in a sitting. The banter in the first two is superb, and there’s enough angst in the third to make it interesting without being too heavy for the novella length. Each manages to have exactly the right amount of heat to best serve the story.

Also, Firework has a Yorkshire terrier named Bernadette Peters, and if that isn’t the best thing ever, I don’t know what is.

The Cons

As complete as the stories are, I would have loved to read full-length novels for each of these romances.

The Conclusion

Sweet Hearts is a fun, easy read. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes lighthearted contemporary romances, and particularly anyone who is a fan of these authors.

Excerpts from Sweet Hearts

Excerpt from Firework by Melissa Brayden

“What’s going on over there?” Kristin asked quietly.

Lucy shook her head. “You.”

“What about me?”

“I’m not supposed to like you.”

“I remember. I’m not supposed to like you either.”

“Yet the only thing I can concentrate on right now is doing this.” She touched Kristin’s cheek, slowly leaned in, and kissed her.

Excerpt from Getting Serious by Rachel Spangler

“No,” Marty said, shaking her head. “No consolation prize for you, because the incorrect item on your list was cheesy romantic displays.”

Lisa’s eyebrow rose as she let that bit of information sink in.

“I don’t like kitschy couples. I like genuinely romantic displays. I like seeing my friend’s authentic happiness. And while I’m confessing, it’s probably worth mentioning that I’m also very much enjoying the company of a dashingly handsome maid of ill repute.”

“Bold, I like it.”

Excerpt from Risk Factor by Karis Walsh

“I’m angry with you right now,” Ainslee said. Her frown appeared forced, though, as if she were pushing her beautiful lips into a downturned arch to keep herself from laughing. “Can you teach me how to ride a gallop? I’d like to run off and leave you in the dust.”

Myra laughed. “You’d be sitting on your ass in the dust, more like it, if you tried. How about settling for a ride home in brooding silence instead? It’s safer.”

“Deal,” said Ainslee.

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About the author

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Tara Scott lives in Calgary, Canada with her family. If you don't find her with her Kindle in her hand, she's probably busy talking about what she's currently reading.