Author: Tara Lain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 224 Pages
At a Glance: In my opinion, this follow-up was definitely not as good as Knight of Ocean Avenue, but I’m still enjoying the series.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Jim Carney has a full time job—running from himself. Since he walked out on his wealthy family at sixteen because he’d wrecked his best friend’s life over some yaoi graphic novels, Jim has lived a macho, blue-collar existence of too much booze and too little responsibility. Then Billy Ballew, the man Jim most admires, gives Jim a chance to come through as his construction supervisor. For once, Jim is determined to make someone proud. Then Jim goes in for a physical for his new job, and his yaoi dream comes to life in the form of cardiologist Ken Tanaka. Jim discovers he has two heart problems—a wonky mitral valve and a serious attraction to his doctor. But Ken is a major player, and Jim might be just a notch on the doc’s stethoscope. To Ken, Jim is unforgettable—but the living embodiment of his traditional family’s worst nightmares. How come the minute Jim decides to be responsible, he finds himself taking care of his kid brother, getting a proposal from a wealthy woman, making a deal with the devil, and winding up in the hospital—when all he really wants is the Knave of Broken Hearts?
Review: Knave of Broken Hearts, the second book in Tara Lain’s Love in Laguna series, is, if simplified, a romance about a blue-collar construction worker who falls for a rich, extremely handsome cardiologist. It’s not simply a straight ahead romance, however. There are a few important themes and messages at play throughout the book – overcoming fear and learning how to be who you are, accepting who you are, and being unwilling to compromise who you are to please others. Also, neither of the main characters are exactly what they seem and are both dealing with very stressful personal lives.
At first, I had a difficult time getting into the story; I didn’t immediately engage with the characters. But, since the same thing happened when I read Knight of Ocean Avenue, the first book in the series, and I ended up loving that one, I figured I would be invested before long, and, for the most part, I was.
I fell for Jim first, partially because of knowing him a bit from the first book, but also because his character was more richly developed. His backstory, especially the stuff with him and Hiro, and his estrangement from his family, was very interesting and engaging. I loved how Jim took the bull by the horns with the job opportunity that Billy gave him. He showed a lot of growth throughout the book – small lapse in judgement with regard to his father’s scheme and his part in it aside – and showed that he could really be someone that Billy, his brother, and everyone else could be proud of. Speaking of the brother…I ADORED Jim’s younger brother, Ian. He was smart and refreshing, lots of fun, and just a sweet kid. I reeeeaaally hope that the author is going to give him a story down the road in this series!
Ken’s character was a tougher sell for me, but I did grow to like him, especially in the last quarter of the book. And, even though I liked the Japanese culture elements, and thought it was sort of cute that his mother finally decided to embrace the fact that her son was gay, and tried to fix him up with a guy instead of girls, I honestly felt like he could have had more depth. In fact, Ken and Jim’s relationship just never quite took off for me. Though I thoroughly loved the ending – the gift that Ken gives Jim actually made me cry – I felt like they spent too much of the book either misunderstanding and dancing around each other, or having strange, sporadic, rushed sexual encounters. The attraction was established…we knew that they wanted to get into each other’s pants…but the love connection didn’t have much strength.
A few other observations…
The supporting cast was pretty great. I already mentioned Ian (Adored! Please give him a book!), but Constance, the building owner of the job the crew is working on, turned out to be a great gal (I love a strong female character who isn’t a cliché), and Billy totally stole the few scenes he was in. I absolutely loved all the moments with Billy and Jim.
ALL of the parents were assholes. Okay, Ken’s dad wasn’t an asshole per se, and his mom did end up trying to meet him halfway, I guess. But, Jim and Ian’s father? Total Asshole. And Constance’s dad? Asshole.
And, finally, what the hell with Mickey and the rapist crew? That came off a bit like unnecessary drama, especially that final scene with them. I wish there had been another way to show the pressure on Ken to be who his parents wanted, and get across the stress his mother put him through, other than to set him up with that nutjob.
I’d have to say that while I liked it, in my opinion, this follow-up was definitely not as good as Knight of Ocean Avenue, but I’m still enjoying the series and looking forward to Ru’s book coming next!
You can buy Knave of Broken Hearts here: