Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Ellen Webster, professor of history, can’t help but fantasize about her next-door neighbor Kate Foster—after all, she sees her on the evening news every night. Sexy and smart, Kate is Ellen’s dream girl, but the dynamic TV newscaster doesn’t know Ellen exists. Struggling with self-doubt and low self-esteem, Ellen can only watch the parade of beautiful women Kate brings home. But a rainy night and near tragedy change everything when Kate is involved in an automobile accident and turns to Ellen for help. Withdrawing from the world, Kate comes to depend upon Ellen for far more than she realizes—until the day Ellen tells her that she is leaving on sabbatical. Ellen and Kate’s journey leads them beyond the transitory nature of superficial beauty to the true splendor of the love they hold in their hearts.
[Originally posted on Amazon 4/16/12]
I’m giving Heart of the Matter three stars because when all is said, it’s an average book. Thompson had a very good plot idea, and the characters were potentially very interesting. The writing is okay, if a bit clichéd at times.
I feel that the book spent too much time spinning its wheels and the miscommunication/lack of communication trope went on for much too long. I liked that plenty of time was given for the romance to develop naturally, but I don’t feel that the time was always put to the best use. One logic issue that nagged at me was that Kate suffered serious panic attacks when faced with leaving her home. Yet once she goes away with Ellen there’s not a single mention of even a moment of trepidation on her part. The recovery was too abrupt and unrealistic.
My main problem with the book though has to do with Ellen’s body image issue. This is a subjective response and may not factor in at all as to whether others enjoy the book.
It’s stated that ten years ago Ellen weighed 110 pounds. It’s also stated that she’s 5′ 7″. In one part it’s also mentioned that she can no longer fit into size 4, and elsewhere that she’s gone up two sizes. She spends the entire book bemoaning her weight and how unattractive it makes her. This is serious, and unhealthy. Let’s say for the sake of argument, since it’s never actually stated, that Ellen has put on around 30 pounds. (It was described as a gradual weight increase.) That would put her right in the range of average and healthy. Yet the way she thinks of herself gives the impression she’s not really fat necessarily, but let’s say having a kind of matronly figure.
That alone would not have been a problem if the book in some way addressed her distorted body image. It’s not that it’s unrealistic for women to think this way, it’s all too common. But the issue is that at no time was the distorted body image dealt with. Ellen is finally led to believe that Kate finds her attractive, and her friend tells her repeatedly she’s attractive. But she is never actually confronted with the fact, by others or herself, that she is not overweight. At the end of the book Ellen is still talking about needing to diet. The book itself is perpetuating an unhealthy and unrealistic message about women and weight, not examining how a woman internalized that message and overcame it.
Tangential to that, despite the fact that Ellen was an attractive, accomplished and tenured professor, she wasn’t appealing to other women. Sandra was obviously not into her and just using her. It wasn’t until Kate herself became “flawed” that Ellen was able to snag her. So the underlying message was that part of why these women belonged together was because of their flaws, despite their flaws being superficial or non-existent.
I probably went on about that too long, but it obviously bothered me. And by spelling it out in detail, other potential readers know what to expect and can make their book buying decision accordingly.