Review and Rec: Eliabeth Hunter’s “Waking Hearts”
I’ve outed myself before as a fervent fan of Elizabeth Hunter’s writing. She writes primarily paranormal/urban fantasy romance, so it often draws readers who love romance mixed with kickass heroines and vampires, angels, shifters, etc. It’s true her books contain some of the most impressive world and mythology building I’ve read in contemporary works. But there’s also more than that. Much more.
Elizabeth has a way of approaching romance that, against fantastical backdrops, is so realistic. Take, for example, her Elemental Mysteries series. Now, yes, we knew that Beatrice and Giovanni were to be paired from the beginning, but that didn’t mean they rushed to the dot the headboard. She built up that romance slowly, deliberately, with the hero and heroine both having some pigheaded moments as well as instances of true sacrifice and grace. Unlike so many other romances, it took years for the couple to take things physical, and that head space gave them a lot of room to grow as people (despite the fact that one of them was a vampire) and as a couple. So, when their relationship did finally become “the thing” of the series, it was built on a meaty foundation that fed the reader’s soul.
To do that really well once would be an accomplishment, but Hunter has a proven track record in her dozen or so releases over the last few years that show she can do consistently and expertly, and without loss of conviction or quality. In her latest release, Waking Hearts (Book 3 in the Cambio Springs series), she takes this a bit further. Amid a backdrop of a town of a menagerie of shifters, she presents us with the story of Ollie (bear shifter) and Allie (fox shifter), and by extension, the story of Allie’s kids.
Allie married the wrong guy, but what’s telling of the expertise of Hunter’s writing is that she didn’t go the easy route and make Allie’s ex the bad guy, or even just a bad guy at all. Yes, he was a bad husband, but he had some redeeming qualities, qualities which Allie refuses to dismiss despite the fact that he treated her with a great deal of indifference and occasional disdain. She respects that Joe was still her kids’ dad, and when his body is found and his death made known, she still grieves for him for her children’s sake. When Ollie, whose always had a thing for Allie since high school, steps from sidelines to become a central aspect of Allie’s life, he does so acknowledging her in all her aspects: mother, lover, and friend. He embraces her children while keeping enough of a fine line with them not to usurp the place of their father in their hearts. More than that, Ollie acknowledges Allie’s personal pain and seeks to heal it, not by reinforcing any sort of victimhood, but by accentuating her strengths and value.
See, it was that last one that got me. Some of us have been blessed enough to have a partner in life who embraces us for all we are and makes us want to be better people. And some of us, like me, have been in a relationship where we’re constantly made to feel like our presence is merely tolerated and only acceptable when it fits in to the expectations of our so-called partners. Waking Hearts swept me off my feet because Ollie not only treated Allie in the way I wish I could be treated, but acknowledged to her what no one else could: that she was worthy of that kind of love and attention, that she had the right to expect affection (both in terms of time and, yes, sex), respect, and love. It got to me because she found a partner in life, after having been no more than a placeholder in her husband’s life for years.
This is, by far, Hunter’s best work to date. It is the type of romance all writers should yearn to achieve, and all romance readers should hasten to read.
Happy release day, E. Thank you for giving me hope.
Buy it on Amazon or at your preferred vendor.