Monday, June 12, 2017

[Review]: "Hidden Hearts"

contemporary romance, romance novel covers, Hidden Hearts by Olivia Dade
Hidden Hearts by Olivia Dade
Publisher: Lyrical Shine (June 20, 2017)
Series: Lovestruck Librarians, 6
Genre: Contemporary Romance


AN ADMIRER WITH A SECRET . . .

Mary Higgs could be the poster girl for the buttoned-up librarian. She follows the rules. Stays ʼtil closing. Her kindness and dedication to her patrons are legendary. But those patrons have no idea what she's typing to the mysterious shut-in who emailed the library three months ago . . .

A year ago, Miles O'Connor was a gleaming, ab-sational star of the small screen. Then came the accident. Now he's a wounded recluse with a pizza habit and fears so unshakable that only the thought of losing Mary to an online date could lure him out of his cabin.

Soon their email rapport has turned into weekends on the couch, watching tearjerkers and driving each other insane with red-hot makeout sessions. But as their desire grows and their horizons expand, the life that brought them together might not be enough for either of them . . .




Where to Buy*:
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Reviews of Dade's Previous Novels:


Driven to Distraction (#5) -- TBQ




My Review:





What started out as a mere email question from a library patron slowly turns into so much more in Hidden Hearts.



Mary works admin at the Nice County library. When the book opens, she’s answering an email from an unknown patron who wishes to borrow the library’s ebooks but is unable to come into the library to get a card. Assuming that the man is elderly or otherwise homebound, Mary helps him out, bending the rules about requiring him to come in and provide ID. After a few email exchanges focusing only on getting him set up and answering a few questions about how to get the ebooks from the site, their conversation slowly turns a bit more friendly-personal and less librarian-patron (they then switch to her private email). Their interactions continuing for weeks, a friendly back-and-forth as they discuss everything and anything. Their friendship comes to mean a lot to both, but what Mary doesn’t know is that Miles wants desperately to see her – preferably as more than just friends -- but can’t, not yet.



Miles is hiding out in the small Maryland town, avoiding the life he left behind in California. He’s the star and host of a very popular TV series, Naked Carpenter. But after an unfortunate accident that resulted in amputating his one arm, he fled the spotlight to quietly lick his wounds and recover, to figure out what his life will be now with just the one arm. He’s not only anxious about the thought of someone recognizing him, but also uncomfortable with his body’s changes: the loss of his arm, of course, and how it affects him and his daily life, but also a bit of weight he put on in the recovery time. Because of all that, he keeps everyone at bay – his old friends and family – and doesn’t wish to reach out to anyone new, either. Except the lovely Mary, whose emails brighten his day. He wants to be with her, and it’s not until she mentions an upcoming date that he finally pushes himself to go see her. And so it begins!



His hand slid to the nape of her neck, kneading the muscles there and sending shivery tremors down to her toes. His strong arm lay warm against her back, pressing her tight to his body as their tongues parried and played.  
A single kiss had never caused such a dizzy buzz in her head before. A single embrace had never left her with an empty ache between her legs before.  
And not once—not ever—had a man tempted her to throw aside everything she knew about herself and her need for intimacy before sex, to jettison all her concerns in favor of more.  
More contact. More kisses. More friction. More Miles.



Mary and Miles’s relationship is a slow burn. I’m a sucker for message exchanges in romancelandia, so that part made me quite happy. Even after they finally meet in person, things still move slowly, building gradually. They soon start having these cute date nights where she comes over to have dinner with him, they watch a movie (mostly drama tear-jerkers, her favorite – and he gets into them, too), and he gives her a mostly chaste kiss or two before sending her home with plans for their next date. It’s sweet and I liked seeing them get to know each other like this.



He captured her mouth with his, his typical caution transformed into flagrant carnality. His tongue staked a claim, masterful and skilled, all gentleness gone. And for the first time, she understood just how tightly leashed he’d kept himself for weeks and weeks.  
His breathing became ragged, his body exuded heat, and he turned restless beneath her, running his hand up and down her back, along her side, and down to her bottom. He squeezed there with a low groan. And somehow, he maneuvered her into straddling him on the couch, her legs bracketing his hips as she buried her fingers in his hair and abandoned all thought.  
For endless minutes, they sat entwined and kissing, so close she could feel every shift of his muscles, every rise of his chest. So close she could forget all her misgivings. 
When he finally ripped his mouth from hers, she felt the loss like a slap.
He captured her hand and pressed her palm to the zipper of his jeans. Beneath it, he was hard. So hard that her breath hitched in shock and desire both. 
“You’re not ready.” He was panting, color high in slashes across his cheekbones. “But for God’s sake, Mary, don’t ever doubt that I want you.”



The slow burn continues for quite a while, with nothing beyond those PG kisses showing up until nearly 60%. Even then, while the two sex scenes in this book are hot (more on this in a moment) they were a bit more . . . tame, I suppose? Which isn’t me complaining, by the way, just an observation. However, this low (but still hot!) burn fit these two, in particular the reserved Mary, so I’m not upset by this. Even though I love my books as dirty as they come, I will always prefer that the sex feels natural and fitting to the couple rather than just forced in, whether it’s a good match for the characters or not, just to increase the heat level.



Let’s back track for a moment and go over how their relationship moves from the friendship-turned-cute-dates to something more serious. This change comes about when he finally opens up to her about his accident, his feelings post-accident, and his worries about his future, about his very self-identity. That scene gave me a nice case of feels. Because YAY FOR MEN WHO DON’T RUN AWAY FROM THEIR FEELINGS FOREVER AND ACTUALLY SHARE THEIR EMOTIONS WITH THEIR PARTNER. Yes, even when those emotions lead to crying. No, no, ESPECIALLY when that happens. Gimme a hero who is not “too manly” to show his feelings, please!



This release of emotions is then followed by some pretty heavy intimacy, which moves their relationship forward. It all starts with him showing her his amputation. To make him feel more comfortable, she opens up to him as well by removing her shirt and bra, and allowing him to look and touch. This helps to distract him from his discomfort of having her see and explore his arm (because hello, BOOBS! Ha), but more importantly it also shows him that she’s trying to share her own insecurities with him (body insecurities – she had, and still struggles with, an eating disorder). Those moments were both hot and also feels worthy.




Once more, he reminded himself that he wasn’t the only one with fears and insecurities. He wasn’t the only one who needed comfort. To become the lover he wanted to be for Mary, the lover she deserved, he had to remember that. Not just now, but always.




And then the sex itself? Hot. She’s never had oral, is shy and a bit uncomfortable about it, but he gives her his all and the rest is history. 😉 He’s worried about fumbling and not being “enough” with just his one arm, but they make it work and it’s hot as hell, satisfying both of them -- and then some! So it’s not that the sex isn’t hot; it is! There’s just less of it, at least compared to some of Dade’s other books. I was still quite happy with what we did get here, don’t worry. I mean, there’s this:



He buried his hand in her hair and claimed her mouth, nudging between her legs with his muscled thigh. And when he bent his knee, she suddenly had pressure right where she wanted it. And when he lifted that leg higher…oh. Oh, goodness gracious.  
She whimpered against his lips, and she could feel his satisfied smile. “Ride my leg,” he said. “Grind against me. Make my thigh wet.”  
He’d never used that kind of language with her before. Never imbued his voice with such confident command and open carnality. It was exciting. More exciting than she’d ever dreamed. And when she rocked her hips, rubbing against his leg, her eyes shut at the pleasure of it. 
“Look at me,” he demanded. “Only at me.” His hand had fisted in her hair. Not hurting her, not even a little bit. But insisting on her full attention. Demonstrating with his hold just how close to the edge he was tonight.



I have to admit, while I can understand why Mary had her doubts, at times it got a bit annoying how focused she was on believing that he was going to run back to Hollywood at the drop of a hat and leave her. Related to all of that, I would have liked to see these two settling into their new lives in their HEA before the book ended (trying to be vague to avoid spoiling anything). They compromised on things in order to be a couple, and while I don’t question those compromises, or their HEA, I did want to see their compromises in action, if you will, to see how it was actually going to work out – and make sure it was going to make them both happy. (Not that they couldn’t have had some bumps along the way, like any relationship, mind you; I just wanted to see that those changes were going to work for them.)



Oh, and this is such a minor thing, but I wish he had grown out his beard again. He mentions it at one point (when he was all shaggy and unkempt but wanted to clean up for her) and I kept waiting for him to grow it out again, this time keeping it trimmed and neat, but sadly he stays clean-shaven through the rest of the book.




Hidden Hearts wraps up Dade’s Lovestruck Librarians series, and is a cute, sometimes a bit angsty, romance. I liked these two together. You can read this as a standalone; I’ve read the two previous books, but not the first 3 (yet). The heroines of each book are all friends, working and living in the same town, and they definitely make appearances in one another’s books, but if you were to jump in here, you wouldn’t be lost or anything. One thing I love about this series is the decent amount of diversity we get, both of body sizes and POC heroines. Of the ones I’ve read, book 5 (Driven to Distraction) is still my favorite, but Miles and Mary’s story was still quite enjoyable. After all, who could resist a wounded and stubborn hero and a shy, reserved heroine, each needing the other to help come out of their shell and take control of their life again? Sign me up! 



4 STARS! 


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I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley.

*Note: The quotes used belong to Olivia Dade; TBQ's Book Palace does not claim them. Any mistakes or typos in the quotes are my own fault.

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Enjoy!


Until Next Time,


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