In October of 2016, fifty-three-year-old Katherine “Kitty” McNally sits beside the hospital bed of John Henshaw, her lifelong love. Their on-again-off-again relationship of almost forty years has led her to this moment: if she wants to keep John in her life she must confront the twisted web of secrets surrounding their teenage breakup, her failing marriage, and their unshakeable attraction.
SURRENDER MY HEART’s narrative follows two separate timelines: the story of John’s hospitalization in 2016 and the development of Kitty’s relationship with John during the late 70s. These flashback chapters are woven throughout the main storyline as Kitty tells the story of the pivotal moments in her relationship with John to her present-day sister and daughter.
When John and Kitty first meet during their junior year of high school, Kitty is a member of the chess club with “curvy hips” and “nondescript brown eyes”. Her self-esteem isn’t high, but underneath her “pleasant facade” is a fierce woman who isn’t afraid to kick John in the shin and hates it when people think she lives a “gold-plated life”. When Kitty is assigned to tutor John she pegs him as a “big, meatheaded” jock—but his “thick and unrefined Jersey accent” draws her in. Soon she finds herself learning about his “fucked up Bayonne childhood” and falling in love with his intimidating but protective nature.
But as Kitty and John’s shared history is revealed, O’Connor teases the reader with more secrets—whispers of the “impending implosion” of Kitty’s marriage, a mysterious letter that came the day Kitty’s aunt died, and an old bullet wound that cost John his relationship with Kitty. As O’Connor pulls the reader into Kitty’s dark past, the image of John in a hospital bed with a “costume of tubes snaking in and out of him” lingers. Readers know where John and Kitty will end up, but following the clues leading up to John’s hospitalization is too satisfying to resist.
While the seasoned romance reader can spot the use of a few popular tropes throughout the story (a jock/nerd pairing, a sexually experienced male lead and an “innocent” heroine, the use of class differences, etc.), SURRENDER MY HEART is far from stereotypical. Add in L.G. O’Connor’s message that there’s always time to find a happy ending, and you’ve got a heart-warming yet intrigue-filled romance with sharp pacing and characters that routinely make the best of the worst choices.
~Stephani Hren for IndieReader