**** (4 stars)
“The Healing Heart” is a sweet, cheerful (almost too cheerful for me, angst-and-gloom-loving curmudgeon that I am, but hey, sometimes you’ve got to lighten up a little) contemporary romance that follows the story of Jamie Hansen, a widow with a teenage daughter, who after losing the love of her life is afraid to let herself love again, and Conley Michaels, the man who finally convinces her to. It’s escapist and fun, the main conflict coming from Jamie learning to let go of her fears and insecurities and accept that life has offered up something wonderful for her again.
The book is fast-moving, written in a breezy, casual style that takes you right inside Jamie’s head. The style is clear and enjoyable and paints a vivid picture of Jamie, her teenage daughter Gretchen, and their world. I also enjoyed reading about Jamie’s close relationship with her daughter. Sometimes I felt that the story barely touched on the surface of Jamie’s emotions, especially the more difficult ones, and would have liked to dig in a little deeper (but again, that might just be Angsty Me speaking).
There are some fun extras at the end of the book: an extensive playlist, a list of music, movies, and TV shows referred to, and Jamie and Conley’s meeting from Conley’s point of view. This delightful novel is Ms. Howard’s debut, and I look forward to seeing more from her.