Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Heart of Little Faith by Jennifer Wilck

Via Lily Livingston is a widow raising her six-year-old daughter, Claire, in New York City. Devastated by her husband's death three years ago, she's in no hurry to fall in love again. Besides, trying to balance her career with motherhood leaves her little time for romance.

With a wheelchair instead of a white horse, and a vow against falling in love again as his armor, Gideon Stone is the last person Lily expects to sweep her off her feet. But when a business agreement forces the two of them together, that is exactly what happens. As they navigate the minefield that fast represents their relationship, can either of them overcome the obstacles to find true happiness in each other's arms? The answer is yes, but the bumps along the way demonstrate that neither of them can go it alone

I follow this author on twitter, and wanted to read something of hers. I was completely intrigued and excited by the idea of a disabled hero in a wheelchair who wouldn't magically be fixed, so I picked this book over her other, Skin Deep. Also, a portion of the proceeds goes to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. That rocks something fierce.

This is a debut novel, and it reads like one. There is a lot to like here, and a lot that can be improved upon.

I really liked these people. Both the main characters and the secondary characters. They are all nice people. Regular people. They all have a great story to tell. I liked that Lily is still mourning her husband, but is still willing to take a risk and open up to Gideon. She is a great mom, and her daughter, Claire, is adorable, without being precocious or too cutesy. Lily has real-life problems, such as needing a babysitter, and having daycare issues.

Gideon seems like a really nice guy, too. On the surface, he seems really well adjusted to the accident that left him a paraplegic, but he does have self-esteem issues stemming from the departure of his ex-girlfriend immediately following his accident. He's a family guy, who really wants nothing out of life except a happy home life filled with a wife and kids. Unfortunately, he feels like he can't saddle a woman with his less-than-whole self.

The secondary characters are great, too. Gideon's sister Samantha, his best friend, Tony, and Lily's friend and boss Anne, are all supportive, but also not afraid to tell it like it is. Her daughter Claire is a realistic 6 year old girl, filled with adorbz but also a little sensitive and still throwing the occasional tantrum. She adores Gideon on sight, and the feeling is mutual, first because Gideon loves kids, but also because Claire just sees him, not a wheelchair. She accepts him at face value for the awesome guy he is.

This book is set in NYC, and Wilck does a great job of showing not just the hustle and bustle of the city, but also the little neighborhoods scattered throughout. Lily and Claire ride their bikes to their local park, there are little restaurants to pop into, and friendly neighbors. It almost feels like a character in and of itself.

Where I thought this book fell short was partly in the editing. It could have been much, much shorter and much, much tighter and still told the same story. There is a lot of extraneous information that only weighs it down. There is also a whole lot of telling, not showing. As an example, in one scene, Gideon is on the phone, and is in his home office. In the middle of his phone conversation, there is a lengthy description of all the rooms in his apartment, rather than, say, the chair he was sitting in, or the overall feel of the room. After this description, we are taken back to the conversation. I felt like this was TMI, and it took me away from what was happening.

Also, and this was one of the biggies for me, in her desire to show Gideon as a regular guy who just happens to be in a wheelchair, I think Wilck shortchanged his obstacles. For example, he goes out and about in the city constantly, takes cabs and the subway. I imagine while this is the norm, it has to be a big PITA, especially the cab part of it. Maybe it isn't, but it felt like it should have been to me. I can't imagine that they all lived on the ground floor in NY, but so many buildings there are walk-ups without elevators. And they are tiny. Was this a problem for him? I wanted to know all these things and more. I wanted to see why he thought he wasn't worthy, the issues he had to face, and the impact it had on him and those around him.

Also, with the closed door nature of the sex, I felt shortchanged. This seemed to me to be the perfect opportunity to increase intimacy between Lily and Gideon. Was it uncomfortable for him to get out of the chair and into the bed while they were being romantic? How did he have sex without the use of his legs? These seemed like missed opportunities to draw the h & h closer, and to let us see more interactions that might have served to increase the trust and faith between them. We are told a tiny bit through Lily's recollection, but aren't shown, which would have been very powerful, IMO.

The title of the book is perfect, and describes Gideon to a T. He wanted to believe in a HEA for himself, but just didn't have enough faith in himself, and projected his past hurts onto Lily. She in turn never said to him, "I love you, dammit. TALK TO ME." So he withdraws and she accepts him back without question every time he apologizes - until the last time, when she doesn't. But as soon as he apologizes, she does. There needed to be a better grovel, IMO. The pattern made me impatient with them both, wanting to smack them upside the head.

I definitely want to try Wilck's next book, because I like the life that she infused into her characters. They are warm, likable people with a lovely story to tell. She has a gentle voice which fit the story perfectly. I'm hopeful that in the next one, there is more show than tell, as well as tighter editing. But overall, a good debut.

Available at Whiskey Creek Press and the usual retailers.

1 comment:

  1. Lori, great review. You make some good points about city living and moving around in a wheelchair. All those walk ups in NYC and most people I know live upstairs not on ground floors, so that would be tough to navigate. The cabs would be a PITA, but manageable.

    The showing more than telling is a great sign that there's potential for her future releases. Thanks for the review. :)


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