If you read my reviews, you know that I am a sucker for a good love story. And The Hungry Heart by Brenda Gayle definitely falls into that category. Book One in her Heart’s Desire series, it’s a contemporary romance with suspense and lots of drama to keep the pages turning.
The hero, Hunter Graham, is the classic wealthy playboy, running a 5 star restaurant, living in a hotel, featured on the society page and able to turn on the charm and polish like a light switch. Gayle keeps him from becoming too superficial and shallow, letting us see the man hiding behind the glamour who uses his reputation as a defence to keep anyone from getting too close.
It was the heroine who sold me though. Nora Cross runs a children’s charity, the Children’s Action Network, and her dedication to the cause shines through. Her blend of earnest honesty, stubborn persistence and inevitable klutziness rang a real chord with me. She’s the perfect foil for Hunter, someone who focuses on substance to the exclusion of appearances and who wears her devoted heart on her sleeve. I particularly sympathized when she ruins recipe after recipe during her first visit with Hunter. As someone whose cooking skills are best left to takeout menus, I found myself cheering her on.
My other favourite character was Hunter’s grandmother, Libby. She was exactly the kind of blunt and charming grand dame that I someday aspire to be. Her wittiness and evident devotion to her family sparkled in every one of her scenes.
On the other side was Nora’s sister, Karen. With her, Gayle created a nuanced portrait in shades of muted gray, evoking long-healed heartbreak. A politician’s wife, Karen never came across as a polished politician despite her efforts to play the role. Instead, I found my heart going out to her as someone beaten down by her own secrets, keeping her true self hidden behind a mask of scars from her past.
Gayle weaves them all into a quick-moving plot, featuring unknown assailants stalking Nora, internal drama and position-jockeying at the Children’s Action Network, inheritance and ranch management conflict with Hunter’s family and the constant hints of a dark secret hidden from everyone over the years. Everything conspires to force Nora and Graham to step out of their comfortable roles and cast fresh eyes on one another.
I love it when characters are given a chance to grow and become more than they ever believed they could. Whether it’s Nora learning to play the cocktail party social chitchat game or Hunter realizing that he can’t have the life he wants if he’s never willing to risk conflict, I was rooting for this pair right from the first page.
Visit Brenda Gayle’s website here to learn how to buy the book.