So, I should just get the fangirling out of the way early and say that this was the Cambio Springs book I have been dying for since the first time I read an Allie/Ollie interaction. I was not disappointed! Waking Hearts includes all of my favorite aspects: friends to lovers, a long, slow burn, and the kind of deep, unflinching devotion that comes from truly knowing someone. Love at first sight stories are great, but love that endures and grows… that is divine.
More than that, though, I have to give Hunter virtual fist bumps for doing a few things that just aren’t done often enough. What she’s done is build a steamy, sensual, sweet, heart wrenching story around a thirty-something single mother of four. (This mother of four heartily approves!) And she’s done it in a way that does so much more than just give lip-service to the fact that her heroine is a mother. The kids are there, constantly. They are very much a part of the story, and Ollie’s relationship, not just with Allie, but with the kids, is vital to the book.
She handles the very real effect kids can have on a relationship perfectly. They have the power to bring two people together, while also driving those same people crazy. Priorities make it so that though you may simply want to snuggle naked all day, you just can’t do it. The kids’ needs very often come first, which is just a fact of parenting life. Constant interruptions, general grossness, bickering, laundry… it’s all part of it.
But the great thing about frustration and interruptions is that, when the sexytimes actually do happen, they’re that much hotter. And the kids being around kind of forces Ollie and Allie (and other couples with kids) to be a little creative and maybe sneaky in their interactions, and that just ramps the tension up even more. So thank you, Elizabeth Hunter, for showing that sexiness does not shrivel up and die after children become part of your life. Children often seem like the death knell of romance (both in the genre and in real life, depending on who you listen to) and it’s just not true.
Besides that, there’s Ollie. A genuinely good guy. Hard worker, loyal, intimidating to those he needs to intimidate, devoted, sexy (of course). And again, Hunter does a great job of getting right to the heart of what makes a man sexy. Physical stuff is great, but what makes Ollie irresistible both for Allie and to me as a reader is how he handles himself. Gruff, quiet, smart. Listens more than he speaks. He devotes his time to those he finds deserving of it, and if he’s loyal to someone, he’s completely loyal. He’s a rock, and, maybe that’s what I loved most about this character. Everyone, no matter how together she/he is, needs a rock. Someone who will say “go take a nap, I’ve got this.” Someone who will fix your car, watch the kids, set the coffee pot, and try to let you sleep in when you’re tired.
“I’ve got this.” Those words, that attitude, said with love and backed up with action? There is nothing sexier in the entire world. So, nice job again, Hunter, in giving us a genuine nice guy hero who makes us swoon for all the right reasons.
Speaking of “rocks,” Allie is another one. It’s very easy in romance novels for the hero to outshine the heroine, to become the focus of everything, and Allie holds her own in every single way. I loved her. Loved that she’s not perfect but she’s trying like hell. Loved that she has all the normal insecurities many women have, plus some, and she just deals with it, the way we all do. She’s brave, and tough, and warm, and nurturing, and I absolutely loved reading her story.
This is a book that will keep you reading late into the night. It’s a book that will make you appreciate your crazy, maddening family. It’s a book that I think many of us can see ourselves in, and that’s a beautiful thing. More than anything, it’s a book that will make you happy. Full of sensuality, humor, and emotion; set among the tapestry of family and community, Waking Hearts was everything I was hoping for, and so much more.
Waking Hearts is available for pre-order now, and will be out on Tuesday, November 24th. Check out Elizabeth Hunter’s site for more details!