5 Stars, Genre Romance, Heidi Cullinan, Reviewed by Jules, Samhain Publishing

Review: Lonely Hearts by Heidi Cullinan

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Title: Lonely Hearts (Love Lessons: Book Three)

Author: Heidi Cullinan

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 325 Pages

At a Glance: If this book isn’t perfect, I sure couldn’t find the flaws, and I read it twice just to be sure.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Even hot messes need a happily ever after.

With the quiet help of his wealthy family, Sebastian “Baz” Acker has successfully kept his painful past at bay. But as the end of college draws near, his friends—his buffer zone—are preparing to move on, while his own life is at a crippling standstill.

With loneliness bearing down on him, Baz hooks up—then opens up—with Elijah Prince, the guy Baz took a bullet for last year. The aftershocks of their one-night stand leave giant cracks in Baz’s carefully constructed armor. For the first time, the prospect isn’t terrifying.

Accustomed to escaping his demons by withdrawing into his imagination, Elijah isn’t used to having a happy herd of friends. He’s even less comfortable as the object of a notorious playboy’s affections. Yet all signs seem to indicate this time happiness might be within his grasp.

When Baz’s mother runs for a highly sought-after public office, the media hounds drag Baz’s and Elijah’s pasts into the light. In the blinding glare, Baz and Elijah face the ultimate test: discovering if they’re stronger together…or apart.

Warning: Contains sex in a Tesla, sex in a cupboard, sex under a piano, kinky role play, and a cappella RuPaul songs. Just a couple of boys groping, battling, then finally loving their way to becoming men.

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Review: In my reviews of both Love Lessons and Fever Pitch, the first two books in Heidi Cullinan’s Love Lessons series, I used the word ‘perfect’ – and I’m going to use it again here. If this book isn’t perfect, I sure couldn’t find the flaws, and I read it twice just to be sure. ;) Lonely Hearts is Baz and Elijah’s story. It’s my favorite of the series. And, it is perfection.

The title is just one of the myriad of wonderful things about this book. The theme of loneliness runs throughout…What makes them lonely, and how can they help each other not feel so alone. This passage hit me right in the gut…

“It makes me feel shitty and alone. I don’t want to be alone.” He sagged. “But I think maybe I have to be. Even in a crowd of people, my heart will always ache.”

The statement resonated in the furthest hollows of Baz’s soul. “Then we’ll be lonely hearts together.”

Both Elijah and Baz are profoundly lonely and coping in similar ways – i.e., largely through sarcasm, substance abuse, and sex – but when their hearts find each other? Swoon City. They do slowly begin to realize that they don’t have to feel alone, as there are so many unbelievably amazing people in their circle. All of the other residents of the White House, of course – Aaron and Giles, Mina and Jilly, Brian, and the fabulous new edition, Lejla/Lewis – along with Pastor and Liz, Ed and Laurie, Walter and Kelly, Marius, and Damien. As with the other books in the series, the ensemble is, once again, beyond fantastic.

One of the issues that Baz is having as Lonely Hearts begins, is dealing with the fact that Damien and Marius are graduating and moving out of the White House. Those two have been his confidants, his protectors, his cheerleaders, and his best friends since Baz started at Saint Timothy. Especially Marius. Not having them around in his daily life is a HUGE transition for him, and Heidi Cullinan does a fabulous job of portraying how that loss affects Baz, as well as how, as that hole is filled by Elijah, Baz depends on them less and less.

Elijah initially fights his attraction to Baz – Ok, he doesn’t fight that hard. They do have sex in the Tesla in chapter two, so he isn’t able to resist him for long. We see this reaction about a quarter of the way into the story:

So naked, so fucking naked without those glasses. So young. So handsome.

So Baz.

Elijah let out a sigh of surrender.

Eyes crinkling and twinkling in the shadows, Baz smiled.

The relationship between Baz and Elijah may begin in an unlikely manner, and they are both broken, hot messes at the start, but their growth is undeniable. The way they grow together, with each other and because of each other throughout the story is brilliant and gorgeous. They go from snarky comments and smart-ass flirtations, which they both use as armor, to open, honest grown-up interactions. And, somehow the sex just gets hotter and hotter!

One of my other favorite things about the story is that it is once again filled with music and pop culture references. At my house we are massive Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli fans, so I LOVED all of the nods to Howl’s Moving Castle (Baz and Elijah’s relationship is compared many times to Howl’s and Sophie’s, which is…wait for it…perfection) and all of the other Miyazaki films. Also, for a chunk of my reading I listened to Heidi Cullinan’s Spotify playlist that she made for the book. Completely. Fabulous. If you’ve never done this, I highly recommend it, especially this playlist; it was too good.

In closing…

Go. Read. Now.

I highlighted fifty-seven passages in this book, you guys. Fifty-seven. Highlighter orgies like that don’t happen every day. Read this book. Or, the series if you haven’t started it yet, beginning with Love Lessons, of course – because Walter.

Sidenote: Ed and Laurie are a FANTASTIC addition to this book. If you want to know their story, and haven’t read Dance with Me, it’s being rereleased with an amazing new cover on September 8th!!

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