The Artisan Heart – Dean Mayes
We all have the genres that appeal to us and those that don’t. So I lifted this romance woman’s fiction book (the publisher’s definition) as a request and armed with my sword and shield ready to repel any notion of across the room glances, that immediately saw two people falling totally, madly and eternally in love at first sight. I’m afraid the DNF flag would have gone up faster than a line of coke at a Charlie Sheen party.
I actually found The Artisan Heart really entertaining, heart-warming and engrossing. It was enjoyably clever, to observe how incidents and events affected the characters’ romantic moods, emotions and perspectives. It was refreshing to witness amorous engagements and how they are fostered and brought together sometimes in unexpected ways. The real-life balancing acts, between career and home life, between horror at a child’s suffering at the hands of an abusive parent and professional restraint (or not), and between future plans and family stubbornness from past decisions, were intelligently constructed.
Hayden is a paediatrician, married to Bernadette, a driven entrepreneur who is starting to make things happen in her business. As Bernadette’s clients become more elite and influential, the more pressure that’s put on Hayden to be the supportive husband, even though being a doctor is not a job you can walk out the door in the evening, and pick up again in the morning. I suppose I couldn’t understand why being a doctor wasn’t an acceptable explanation for Bernadette to use for her husband’s absence. Something was going to give and this is handled in a careful and convincing way. When a particular situation develops Hayden once again misses an event due to a medical emergency. The medical problem that kept Hayden late has blown up as Hayden confronts an abusive father that has caused serious burns damage to his daughter. The confrontation gets physical and as a consequence, Hayden is suspended pending an investigation. Hayden returns home unexpectedly, to find his wife ass deep in problems of her own making. The sense of betrayal and emotional turmoil for Hayden seeing his wife with another man was very well delivered and it gave it a real sense of perfidiousness to the story.
Hayden leaves his marital home and travels back to his family home in Walhalla. The only place left to run, although it’s been vacant following the death of his mother and father. The story progresses in a very engrossing style as Hayden navigates old family connections, refurbishing activities on the dilapidated home, meeting new people, and getting his life back on track. Hayden meets a young deaf girl, Genevieve, that he can communicate with using sign language and then her single mother, Isabelle. While no prizes are available for guessing what will happen in a romance story, it is very well developed and thankfully taken in a real and therefore much more compelling manner.
“There was something undeniably attractive about Hayden. It wasn’t immediate, not overwhelmingly masculine, but the longer she spent with him, the more she wanted to be around him.”
Along with Max and Annette, his parents’ old friends, the story tells of how a community supports each other, how relationships develop and how decisions and actions from the past have such an impact in our future happiness and peace.
I was a little disappointed that Hayden became a superman figure taking away the real-life mood, as he was a genius doctor, a sign language expert, a carpenter, a DIY expert, a mechanic, a community facilitator, and someone that can track down a violent criminal and beat him. He delivered Isabelle’s bakery produce faster than – well I’ll leave Charlie Sheen out of this one. There was just no end to his abilities – ridiculous, there’s only room for one of us.
I really enjoyed reading this entertaining novel and I would hope that similar stories wouldn’t be classed as women’s fiction to alienate men. I would like to thank Central Avenue Publishers and NetGalley, for an ARC version of The Artisan Heart in return for an honest review.