5 out of 5 Stars
*I was provided a copy of Mend Your Heart by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*
For the past five years, Isaac Ngata has stayed out of the public’s eye and out of Natalie Fisher’s way. The former All Black rugby star prefers to keep an eye on his best mate’s widow from afar. The accident that took Natalie’s husband and Isaac’s teammate’s life also left Isaac as a celebrity pariah. When he’s asked to coach the girls’ rugby team so Natalie’s daughter can have her chance to play, Isaac’s long-buried feelings for Nat resurface with a vengeance.
Natalie Fisher has resolved herself to life as a single mother and would be happy to put the sport that took her husband behind her for good. But her daughter’s desire to play rugby has put Nat in the direct path of the one man she’d be happy to avoid forever—Isaac Ngata. With Isaac’s reputation in question, Nat has no choice but to help him with practices, and suddenly the sullen man is something more than her husband’s best friend.
Both Nat and Isaac will have to get beyond the past if they want to see what the future holds for them.
Mend Your Heart is book four of the Bounty Bay series, but like all books in this series it can be read as a standalone. And also like all books in this series, it takes romance a step beyond the standard. I can always count on Ms. Alvarez to give me a little something more. In this case, both main characters have to deal with the same issue—the death of Jackson Fisher, who was Natalie’s husband and Isaac’s best friend—but different aspects of the issue. Isaac has always loved Natalie, and his guilt will eat him alive if he can’t let it go. Natalie doesn’t think anyone could love her the way Jackson did, and she has to fight to keep from going back to the girl who made herself invisible in order to survive in the foster care system.
All of the characters in this book, including thirteen-year-old Olivia, were easy to love. One of the things I appreciated most about this story was the gradual change in relationships and characters. The book started with clear examples of Isaac’s miserable life, including his cluelessness in talking to teenagers. Bit by bit, and with a little help from Natalie, he was able to smile again and not only relate to the girls but also coach them to be better people and a better team. Natalie would have preferred to hide from her problems and be invisible once again, but she fought her way back to the strong, assertive woman she’s supposed to be.
Another aspect of this book I truly loved was that the conflict between the characters was mostly internal yet it wasn’t forced or manufactured. The death of a loved one affects people in different ways. Natalie and Isaac both loved Jackson, and they both needed to find a way to move on from their residual feelings five years later. There was plenty of emotion along the way, and like always, this author also knows how to turn up the heat between her characters.
Ms. Alvarez is the queen of happily ever after, providing well-rounded characters, an intriguing plot, and a polished story every time.
All of my reviews of Ms. Alvarez’s books can be found on the Author Spotlight tab.