Saturday, October 6, 2012

"The Hungry Heart" - by Brenda Gayle (Novel Publicity Blog Tour)

"Child advocate Nora Cross doesn't have time for the private cooking lesson her sister won at a charity auction.  Hunter Graham, the young chef, is the last person she needs telling her she's forgotten how to have fun.  So why can't she get the very hot, very eligible man off her mind?  

After a stellar debut in New York City, Hunter's back in Sante Fe to open a new restaurant.  He lives a charmed life and he knows it.  HE isn't interested in a workaholic who's glued to her smart phone.  So why is he trying to convince Nora to relax and enjoy life--with him?

When Nora's apartment and office are ransacked, Hunter comes to her rescue, surprised to find himself playing knight-in-shining armor to the uptight executive.  But when it becomes clear Nora is no random target, Hunter realizes he'll do anything to keep her safe."

About the author
Brenda Gayle has been a writer all her life but returned to her love of writing fiction after more than 20 years in the world of corporate communication—although some might argue there was plenty of opportunity for fiction-writing there, too.  A fan of many genres, she is drawn to contemporary romance and enjoys writing deeply emotional stories with elements of mystery and suspense.  Her first book, Soldier for Love, was a recommended read by a number of reviewers. Her new book, The Hungry Heart, is the first in her Heart's Desire series, which chronicles the difficult road to finding love and family acceptance for the three Graham cousins. Brenda lives in eastern Ontario with her wonderful husband, two fabulous children, two Siberian Huskies, a rescued cat, and assorted aquatic wildlife.

Connect with Brenda on her website,  Facebook, or Twitter.

I've read several books that attempt to use humor to deal with drama-filled situations. As this is a difficult line to walk, some have done so splendidly and others have flopped more soundly than a tired fish finally reeled into shore. “The Hungry Heart”, thankfully, lands squarely in the former of these two scenarios.

The Good
I'll just say it and get it over with – I absolutely loved this book. From the characters to the setting, from its witty banter to the neatly wrapped up story line, this book is top-notch reading that should be on everyone's shelf (whether that shelf be physical or digital). I'm not afraid to admit that it caused me to lose a little sleep as I had to know what happened next.

Witty writing? Check. It takes a lot for reading to make me laugh. Now, the philosopher Epictetus succeeded when he said something along the lines of “You don't have a pain in your horns, now do you?” when talking about how we should not aim to own many possessions because that which we do not have cannot pain us. But I digress (though you should check him out...for a philosopher, his sense of humor is catchy). “The Hungry Heart” made me laugh constantly!  Several times my husband lifted his attention from his homework to ask me “what is so funny?” while I read this book. It's not slap-stick funny, not is it banal humor. Rather, the humor in this book is made up of the perfect combination of sarcasm, matter-of-fact internal dialog that I'm sure we've all had towards another human being, and wit that left me LOLing before I realized the lines had tickled my funny bone so. (Note: Gayle dares to use words that readers may not know (a practice that I love as I get to add words to my vocabulary and feel like I learned something as well as was entertained). Do you know what a balaclava is? I do thanks to this book.)

Characters one comes to love? Check. Now, perhaps it is because the female protagonist's name is Nora and that is what I go by that I found myself immediately identifying with her, but perhaps it is also because she is a very hard-working female in a male-dominated workplace. She also makes her abode in the state that I was born – New Mexico – and her life's passion is mine as well: child advocacy. So yeah, I identified with Nora right away (oh, and we are both klutzes). Now, let's consider Hunter, the main male. Think someone with the charisma and sexual appetite of James Bond but with the devastatingly attractive boyish looks of young Val Kilmer and you have how I pictured Hunter throughout this book. A young man well-versed in the art of sheet surfing, what is a boy to do when confronted with the genuine, down-to-earth good looks of a damsel in distress who has no idea she is in distress until it is very nearly too late (I better be careful or I'm going to give away the ending)? Each person in this work has his or her own unique voice that stays uniquely blending here! Nora is a stubborn and determined woman who lives her life for others while Hunter is a stubborn and determined man who lives his life mostly for his own gratification...yet they each own their stubbornness and determination. :)

Plot that has surprises akin to “Law and Order”? Check. Here is one of the things I appreciated most about this work: the plot moves along smoothly while initially firmly defining each of the main characters in such a way that we knew right away who we were dealing with. Gayle did not rush things into the story, but rather let them develop at their own pace. Thank you, Gayle! My creative writing professors in college used to emphasize that authors are to think up a story and then let it write itself (does that make sense? By that my profs generally meant that authors need to get to know their characters for each of their unique selves...what makes sense and what does not, etc). This story is so well written and gripping that I felt as though I were watching it on a screen. Each detail made perfect sense in context and flowed well into the next detail. Continuity was present, namely as the characters remained consistent to their core selves while everything was happening.  I loved it and had to know what happened next.

Clearly defined settings?  Check.  Gayle constantly took the time to note what kind of furniture was in a room, where it was, how the room felt, etc.  While readers still need to do some work to picture the scene, Gayle did a fantastic job of allowing readers to focus on the story rather than struggle to set the action in some place that made sense.

I love this book I love this book I love this book. There, have I said it enough times? I love this book.

The Bugly
I love this book, but I do have quibbles.

First, the ending. While I understand the last few chapters of any story are difficult to write (believe me, I've done enough writing to have first-hand experience with the pain-in-the-tailfeathers challenge that endings present), the last few chapters of this story feel a little rushed. There was still careful attention to detail and setting of the scene present throughout the work, but the plot felt a little bit hurried in this section only.

Second, as much as I enjoyed the characterization throughout this book, it bothered me that it was hard to figure out the motivation for some of the characters who made Nora's life complicated. Just why was Sylvia such a controlling female canine? Why did the Senator do what he did (not gonna tell you what he did...if you read the book you will get it. Okay, shameless plug to try and get you to read the book, but still)? While the two I mentioned are relatively minor characters, they have a major impact on the main characters' lives and so I wish I knew where they were coming from a little more. Especially Sylvia.

Third, the cover of the book is bothersome. A big deal is made over the fact that Nora is older than Hunter by enough to make the media call her a “cougar”. Why does the woman on the cover look younger than the man she is leaning into? Granted, I'm not a fan of book covers containing representations of the people within the story – I like to figure out what they look like for myself with description from the writing – so perhaps this jades me a smidge. Regardless, it is almost as bad a transgression as Effie wearing a pink dress in the beginning of “The Hunger Games” movie when the book clearly says her dress was green. Off topic...sorry....but that was very bothersome to my sense of accuracy. Argh. Okay, tantrum done. :)

Fourth, Hunter has lavender eyes. Lavender? I don't think a person can genetically have lavender eyes...but perhaps he was wearing colored contacts (not unthinkable for him, but should have been mentioned if this were the case). Now, I totally understand someone's eyes noticeably changing shades with their mood (I've seen this happen), but lavender eyes? Um, no.

Overall, if you have not figured this out already – READ THIS LOVELY BOOK!! Now, there are some scenes that you'll have to be careful about reading with other people in the room (let's just say 10 years ago they would have made me blush), so be aware of that. Also be aware that there is an unresolved issue with one of Hunter's cousins that lends itself well to a sequel (please please please?? with a cherry on top?), so prepare yourself for a tiny cliffhanger. Despite my quibbles above, I LOVE this book and consider it one of the best reads I've had the pleasure of diving into so far this year. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give this book an 8 (sorry, the cover bothered me a titch too much, as did the lavender eyes and iresome rushed feeling to the ending).

Wanna win a $50 gift card or an autographed copy of The Hungry Heart? Well, there are two ways to enter...

  • Leave a comment on my blog. One random commenter during this tour will win a $50 gift card. For the full list of participating blogs, visit the official Hungry Heart tour page.

  • Enter the Rafflecopter contest! I've posted the contest form below, or you can enter on the tour page linked above.

  • Get The Hungry Heart on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.


    1. So glad you liked! Can't wait to read it myself :)

    2. Great review, Nora! "Female canine?" Teehee, loves it. I'm also looking forward to the steamy scenes referenced. You don't have to sell my on this one; I'm already really excited to read it! Thank you for joining us on this tour, and please take a moment to cross-post your review to Amazon and GoodReads.

      Em :-D

    3. Thank you so much for the lovely review, Nora (love the name!). I'm very pleased that you enjoyed it The Hungry Heart. It was a lot of fun to write and I'm glad that seemed to come across in the story. And yes, of course, there will be a sequel. The Doubting Heart will be out January 27, and it will revolve around what happened to Hunter's cousin--although probably not in the way you're expecting.

    4. Thanks for the great review. I loved your format. The Good and The Bugly. Thanks for your honesty!

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