Author: Lisa Volz
Publication date: September 6, 2020
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
One Sentence Summary: Grace is Elena Russo’s dedicated nurse at Magnolia Gardens and has a friendly, professional relationship with the woman’s grandson Dante, but Elena is hoping to push them even closer together.
I’ve been a follower of Lisa’s blog, Write Side of the Road, for a while, so I was delighted and honored when she asked if I’d review A Good Heart. I know she writes women’s fiction with a dash of romance, which is right up my alley, so I was very happy to say yes. A novella, A Good Heart moves at a surprisingly perfect pace considering the short length while also developing the characters and their relationships organically. This was a delightful, quick read that was sweet while also throwing some serious problems in the way.
A Little of Everything
A Good Heart tells the story of Grace and Dante. Grace is a nurse at Magnolia Gardens assisted living facility where one of her favorite patients is Elena Russo, an Italian grandmother in the early stages of dementia. Dante is Elena’s sole grandchild, the son of her only daughter. He’s as devoted to Elena as a son would be, visiting often and doing what he can to make his grandmother comfortable and happy.
Elena loves Grace and Dante and wants nothing more than to see them happy. Together. Despite her faltering memory, she holds onto this idea. It isn’t entirely repugnant to Grace and Dante, who share a warm professional relationship forged over their love for Elena, but she’s Elena’s carer and there are rules and ethics. Even though she likes Dante, she also loves her job, and so begins her struggle for what, exactly, she wants out of life.
As a novella, this was short and sweet. It was simple and straightforward. But it also really packed in a lot. There’s Elena’s faltering memory that Grace and Dante handle delicately and with a great deal of love and compassion. There’s Grace and Dante slowly falling for each other despite not wanting to. There’s the problem of Dante’s mother potentially showing up and stirring trouble. There’s Grace’s struggles between her heart and her love of her profession. There’s even some workplace drama! For such a short book, this one kind of had everything and it all worked so well together and quite seamlessly.
I loved the struggle Grace went through, having to choose between love and career. While it was predictable and obvious, I liked that it was entirely her decision and that her struggle was just so realistic. Even though I knew how it was inevitably going to go, I really appreciated her back and forth and figuring out how to have it all.
Plenty of Good Hearts
As A Good Heart is a novella, there isn’t much time for the reader to form a deep relationship with the characters, but it was fun getting to know them and be touched by the sweetness and thoughtfulness most of them showed. Grace and Dante were perfect for each other. But, perhaps, a little too perfect, as though they had been actually cut from the same cloth with very similar ideals, mannerisms, and speech patterns. Every so often it was difficult to follow who was saying what, but it made them feel like a natural match. The same held true for most of the characters across the board in that they displayed the same or very similar mannerisms and used the same phrases. While each character was distinct, these little things made them blur together a little.
Rounding out the small cast were Elena, Mia and Tasha, who each added their own unique flavor to the story. Elena, as Dante’s grandmother, was the main driving force as it was her wish for Grace and Dante that drove the story. Even though she was in the early stages of dementia, there were glimpses of who she had been and the core of a woman who had lived through much and had a great deal of love for her family and those who cared about her. Mia and Tasha were two of Grace’s colleagues who worked the front desk. Though both were young, they were very different in that Mia was quieter and more cautious while Tasha was brasher and not above stirring the pot a little. They made things at the nursing home interesting while also being very good supporting characters.
Mainly a Nursing Home
A Good Heart is mostly set in an upscale nursing home. It felt clean, friendly, and like it went out of it’s way to provide a warm, homey feeling to its residents. The drama and fun characters (both staff and residents) helped craft it into its very own neighborhood, though I do wish to have gotten to know some of the residents more because they seemed quite entertaining!
Outside of the nursing home, the setting felt a little non-specific. It was a nondescript area with the standard homes and businesses, and a lovely coffee shop. Small enough to allow the characters to bump into each other, it was also large enough for Grace and Dante to remain incognito as their situation demanded it. I actually liked that it was overall uninteresting as it focused attention on the story and the nursing home where much of the story unfolds.
Short and Sweet
A Good Heart is a short, sweet romance. As a novella, there isn’t a ton of tension or real problems that require lengthy solutions, so it’s a quick read that delivers on the heartwarming. Grace and Dante were delightful to read about, both with their own problems that need solving. It did feel it was solved a little too easily, but I was so easily charmed by Grace, Dante, and Elena that I just wanted everything to be easy for them. As short as it was, it did a lovely job of presenting a sweet story full of fun characters, a bit of mystery, and enough tension for its length.
Great if you’re looking for: romance, women’s fiction, quick reads, sweet romance, clean romance, books with older characters
Not great if you’re looking for: steamy romance, tons of tension, long reads, complex stories
How many cups of tea will you need?
4 cups of tea
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Thank you to the author, Lisa Volz, for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.