Hearts and Diners by Joseph Reilly

Hearts and Diners

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A mother and daughter fall for a pair of flashy bad boys in the wake of a family death in this debut novel.

High school graduate Heather Sand is still mourning the death of her father and dealing with the aftermath of a breakup as she works at Waymart (a deft parody of a big-box store). She’s a single young woman without a plan who lives with her frosty mother and disabled sister, Leah, both of whom frustrate her. She longs for more in life, which arrives on schedule in the form of a tough, flashy young man named Chris. He drives a Mercedes and catches Heather’s eye “like a neon sign.” She’s swept off her feet, but Chris has his own demons to contend with, including a drunk, neglectful mother and a violent streak that Heather witnesses for herself. “Bad boys,” her mother warns her, are “mysterious, emotionally unavailable and fairly abusive….You don’t love a bad boy, you’re mystified and seduced by them, like a drug.” She knows what she’s talking about, as she also falls for a dangerous, possessive man during the course of the story—one who has even fewer redeeming qualities than Chris. Relationships, both brutal and redemptive, are at the heart of Reilly’s debut. The author shows a good grasp of why people make the same mistakes over and over, and of the intense, fragile pleasure when a long-nursed desire is finally fulfilled. Unfortunately, this perceptive vision is couched in awkward prose, including dangling modifiers and sometimes-confounding phrases (“It made Heather played with her hair as the women glandered over her”). With a stronger edit, it would likely have deserved higher praise.

An observant, perceptive, but unevenly written story of difficult love and tantalizing possibility.  

Pub Date: May 29th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-5141-3119-0
Page count: 392pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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