Published by Harlequin MIRA on December 12th 2016
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Jasmine Thomas should feel safe in her cosy cottage at Admella Beach after finally putting an end to an ill-advised romance. But her perfect sanctuary is shattered with the arrival of hand-delivered threatening notes. Someone has discovered her secret.
When the notes escalate to vandalism, Jasmine's anxiety rises. But in such a small place, telling the police would mean the whole town finding out.
Digby Wallace-Jones is stumbling through the motions of life, wrapped in a fog of grief since his fiancee Felicity died. Withdrawn from his family, Digby doesn't care about anything beyond his loss. But in a chance meeting with Jasmine, his sister's best friend who he's known forever, even he can see the tension she carries. Worried and feeling protective, he continues to drop by, but it's more than that. Jasmine soothes him; and, unlike the rest of his family, he can talk to her about his pain without fear of judgement. But as much as he likes Jasmine, Digby's enduring love for Felicity means he has nothing left to give and he pushes Jasmine away.
Jasmine knew they were supposed to stay friends 'with excellent benefits' but she can't help her wayward heart from falling for this tortured, kind and sexy man. How can she ever loosen the grip Felicity's memory has on Digby's soul and remind him he still has a life ahead of him?
There is a long history and a complicated backstory of Rocking Horse Hill and a bit of it is fleshed out a little in ‘Wayward Heart’, which is essentially, a story that moves from a dark place of grief and betrayal to life and love.
Cathryn Hein writes very sympathetically about her characters and her insights about human nature and their motivations are gold. My own prejudices and hard-limits are the only things that colour the way I’ve come to perceive Jasmine, whose affair with a married man made me like her less than a female romantic lead with more moral integrity. I did think her insecure and weak—again, my own interpretation of her character despite Hein’s persuasive writing about Jas’s struggle in being ‘the other woman’ for years and then her easy capitulation and desperation—as much as I wished she’d done her life more differently. Digby on the other hand, struggles with grief, jealousy and unforgiveness ever since his fiancée died tragically, only beginning to find himself again when he starts an affair with Jasmine.
But he remains unconvinced that he’ll ever be able to give his heart to another woman as he did with his ex and from then on, the plot gets rather predictable as they finally move down the slow road of conflict and acceptance.
‘Wayward Heart’ is about taking very deeply-flawed characters—even those that we can’t tolerate when they fail to do what’s right —and using them to show that even these characters deserve some kind of happy ever after. And the answer that Hein leads us to, really, is time: time apart from each other for things to get reset, for family wounds to scab over and for Digby and Jasmine to rediscover their own ambitions before getting together again without past hurts getting in the way.
There’s a powerful load of family drama, a lot of meditative contemplation and a little suspense as well, but what really lingers is Hein’s beautifully wrought description of the languid, rural Australian landscape that stays long in my mind after I’ve finished the book.