Gosh darn it! Cara Bastone has shattered all my longstanding, hard-won, romance preferences with her debut novel JUST A HEARTBEAT AWAY (debut, are you kidding me?? Skillz). Oh, you THINK you don’t like widower/widow main characters because they make you sad? SIKE. You just assume you can’t handle the main characters in a romance dating other people? THINK AGAIN. Slow burn romances often don’t have enough sizzle or satisfying sexual intimacy for your taste? WRONG. This book had almost every element I assumed doesn’t work for me, personally, as a romance reader, and made it work for me 100%.
This book follows Sebastian, a 42-year old widower and single father, and Via, the 27-year old counselor at his son’s school. It’s been a long time since a book of this length has taken me on such an emotional and realistic journey to love. In the beginning, Seb is just getting back into the dating scene, and Via has a boyfriend (much to my chagrin and personal angst). Watching their relationship, slowly, slowlyyyy unfold was simply beautiful. Our main characters were like two halves of the same whole, finding each other through every obstacle in their way.
In addition to the lovely slow-burn romance, Ms. Bastone explores the themes of grief, guilt, loneliness, found family, and so much more. Instead of weighing the story down, the topics added depth and emotion to her characters. It’s what bumped this book up to one of my favorites of the year so far. As I read, I kept thinking, “this is what modern dating really feels like.” The insecurities, the messiness, the occasional miscommunication, and text etiquette were all there and ridiculously familiar.
Overall, I can’t recommend this book enough. If you’re like me, shuck a few of those preconceived romance notions and let Ms. Bastone’s superb characters and rich storytelling suck you in. Also, I don’t feel like I can end this review without mentioning how WONDERFUL the hero is. Like, A+ book boyfriend material. Looking for a hero without a six-pack? Look no further! He’s brawny (hottt). Where can I find a Sebastian? I need one ASAP.
**I received a free copy of this book in order to provide an honest review**