Hearts Awakened by Linda Winfree
Series: Hearts of the South #6
Also in this series: Truth and Consequences, What Mattered Most, His Ordinary Life, Uncovered, Fall Into Me, Memories of Us, Facing It, Hold On To Me, Gone From Me (Hearts of the South, #10)
Publication Date: September 2nd 2008
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It’s not the past that wounds us…it’s the ghosts we hold on to.
Hearts of the South Book 6
A lifetime ago Mark Cook’s pregnant wife vanished, taking everything and leaving an empty, aching hole in his life. Since then, as penance for his failure as a husband and father, he’s refused to allow himself to live. Refused to lay his sleeping heart on the line for any woman.
Enter Tori Calvert, his best friend’s baby sister. Suddenly, against his will—and against his better judgment—that same damaged heart seems determined to reawaken. And Mark’s not sure he can withstand the pain.
When she was a teenager, a vicious attack ripped away Tori’s very essence as a woman. Finally she feels ready to focus her existence on something other than her job as a rape crisis counselor. And to step outside the shelter of her loving, protective family. She trusts Mark more than any man, yet fear holds her back.
Fear that even the healing light of love may not be enough to banish the shadows of the past.
Hearts Awakened is book 6 in Linda Winfree’s Hearts of the South series. I think you really need to read at least the first book in this series before reading this one to understand what’s going on.
I think I may have enjoyed this story more if I’d re-read the earlier books before reading this one. Although it was good, some of my enjoyment was overshadowed by plot holes and issues with the characterizations. I blogged about some of my issues with the story here.
Beyond those issues, however, I found this to be a well-written, emotionally intense story. Tori was a rape victim several books back, and she’s obviously still dealing with the trauma from that. Though she’s trying to move forward and live her life, she still has many issues and insecurities. I think Winfree did an excellent job of showcasing the problems rape victims face, not only immediately after, but as they try to move forward with their lives.
Mark suffered from a tragedy in his past as well. His pregnant wife disappeared years ago and he’s never been able to move on from it. Although he’s attracted to Tori, he knows he can’t give her what she needs. And yet he finds himself drawn to her. When they’re forced to go to a conference together things heat up between them fairly quickly. I’m glad Winfree slowed down after that, instead of rushing into something neither of them was ready for.
I liked Mark, but there were times I thought he needed to get over his martyr complex. He carried around a lot of guilt for something he had no control over, and while I understood, I thought it was played out a bit too much.
I loved him and Tori together, though. They really helped each other heal and it was great to see them lean on each other.
I was surprised at the way Tick (Tori’s extremely protective older brother) handled the situation between Mark and Tori. Maybe it’s just been too long since I read his book, but I didn’t remember him being that much of an asshole. I do like that Winfree continues to show us what’s going on with previous couples, though. Especially since she does it in such an unobtrusive way, meaning it doesn’t detract from the main story at all.
One thing Winfree does really well is emotion. She doesn’t shy away from it for either her men or her women. Seeing the friendship between Mark and Tick was refreshing, because it isn’t often we see true friendship between men.
If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you pick up one of her novels. I suggest you start at the beginning, with What Mattered Most. Don’t let the number of books dissuade you. They really are fabulous.
I took some time before reviewing this and even re-read it. The small things about this novel bothered me quite a bit, but I think the way she dealt with the real-life issues Mark and Tori faced in a wonderfully believable way. So I’m going to give this a:
4 out of 5
*This review was originally published in 2009. For some reason it disappeared from our database when we switched to our new site.