Friday, October 10, 2014

Review: Heart of Light by T.K. Leigh

Jolene Bergio has spent the last twelve years in the custody of Anthony Falconi, who on a nightly basis sold her to the highest bidder.  He has been in control of Jolene's life for twelve years, since she was sixteen and her adoptive mother died and her father no longer wished to care from her.  Every night, Jolene was abused by Falconi's men, and every day, Jolene was abused by Falconi himself.  Until one night, over ten years later, she finally escapes.

Jolene gets as far away from Chicago as possible and hides out in a small beach cottage in Amelia Island, Florida, off the coast of Jacksonville.  Little does she know that she's renting the house of a one Cameron Bowen, who has been nursing a broken heart for the past couple years.  While both Jolene and Cam are trying to heal themselves, they also start to heal each other.  When Jolene tries to quietly keep her distance from everyone, Cam manages to slowly tear down the walls that she has built up.  Slowly, Cam teaches Jolene how to love and trust again.

When a man from Jolene's past finds her, will she be able to keep her identity hidden?  Or will the truth bring Jolene back to the captivity from which she was finally able to break free?  Can Jolene and Cam's love help them survive?
~My Review~

This book is a spinoff of the A Beautiful Mess series by T.K. Leigh.  I enjoyed that series quite a bit, and knowing a little bit about Cam from that book, and I was interested to see what Heart of Light was all about, but I couldn't make up my mind on whether or not I wanted to read it.  I read the synopsis on Amazon, and while it was different from a lot of the books I've read in the past, I still couldn't make a decision.  After almost a month of deliberation, I read the first (almost) four chapters before finally deciding to buy the book since Amazon gives you the option to "Look Inside".  I enjoyed the first few chapters, so I finally bought the book so I could continue reading.

Heart of light is totally different than anything I've read.  It deals with issues of human trafficking, which is a subject that I'm sure was very difficult to write about and took a lot of research.  I give the author a lot of credit for writing about this kind of topic, because I'm sure it wasn't easy.  However, this book really wasn't for me.  Even though I knew at about 35% that I really didn't like the book, I forced myself to continue reading.  I'm the type of person who will finish a book even if I don't like it, and I really wanted to keep reading to see if the book improved.  I saw that it had many very positive reviews, so maybe I just hadn't gotten to the good part yet.

Unfortunately, the book didn't improve for me.  The story line was my first issue.  I am totally in favor of exploring new topics, and I appreciated that I was getting a story about a difficult topic (human trafficking) and the healing that needs to take place after experiencing it, but I don't agree that someone can be cured from their experiences in just a few months, not just because of what she's recovering from in Chicago, but also everything else that happens to her while she's in Florida.

Jolene has been subjected to being sold nightly since her 18th birthday.  She has been conditioned to be submissive and fearful, and the men who purchase her are 'special friends' of Falconi.  They get off on the submissive and fearful behavior.  A friend of hers who works in the hotel, Rosa, has been helping girls escape from under Falconi's thumb for years, but this escape is particularly dangerous for everyone because Jolene isn't just one of Falconi's girls; She IS Falconi's girl.  Falconi has always been able to maintain this lifestyle and keep the girls under his thumb because he has law enforcement and politicians on his payroll so he'll always be safe.  Jolene is able to escape on a bus that is headed out of Chicago toward Miami and ends up getting off the bus in Jacksonville.  It's clear that she is severely damaged from the mental and physical abuse that she has suffered from over the last ten years.  She can't even be in close proximity with a man, never mind be touched by a man, without freaking out.   I disagreed with Jolene's approach at keeping her anonymity.  She just got on a bus and escaped Chicago, but all of a sudden, she's telling people her real name and working in a popular bar.   Doesn't it sound like she's just screaming to be found?

Cameron Bowen lives on Amelia Island off the coast of Jacksonville, FL.  He is a practicing psychiatrist who happens to specialize in treating women who have been sexually abused.  He failed to save his sister from the abuse that she suffered as a child, and has taken on this profession in order to make up for that fact.  For the past two years, Cam has been very bitter and closed off, nursing a broken heart after reuniting Olivia with her love Alexander, even though he himself was in love with her.  Knowing that she could never return his love, he let her go, but has never been able to move past her (this is the story line from A Beautiful Mess).  Even though Cam's profession is that of a psychiatrist, he also has a tendency to fall for girls who need help.  My first issue here was that from the description we get of Cam's work, he's a Psychologist, not a Psychiatrist.  I know that people often times use the two terms interchangeably, but they're not the same things.  Psychiatrists are physicians who assess, diagnose, treat, and prevent mental illness.  They have an MD, but then they also complete residency training in mental health.  But from the description we're given, Cam is essentially a counselor, which means he is a Psychologist.  I'm not labeling one profession as better than the other, but they are different and should be used appropriately.  My second issue is that [if you read A Beautiful Mess Series] it's clear that Cam clearly has a thing for girls who are damaged and need help.  Olivia needed help and he helped her, and now Jolene needs help, and he has this overbearing need to help her.  And just like what happened with Olivia, he is falling in love with her.  I often found myself questioning if he actually did love Jolene, or if he just loved the fact that he was helping her and became attached.

I felt like the relationship between Jolene and Cam was unnecessarily rushed.  How is it possible for a woman who has been abused for 10+ years to all of a sudden fall in love with someone because he has sexy eyes and abs of steel?  How is it possible for a man who has been pining over someone (who he knows he never really loved) to just flip a switch and be in love with someone else so quickly?  In all seriousness, their relationship essentially starts within 24 hours of Jolene moving to the rental house, and I find it surprising that Cam would accept that she was okay with a relationship so quickly after her past (even if he doesn't know the extent of it) based on his training.

The book was actually on the long side, coming in at 420 pages (5323 location points for Kindle users), and it felt a long read and didn't seem to go by quickly.  There was so much back and forth that I often found myself getting bored.  I felt like there were a lot of scenes drawn out, unnecessarily.  I did like that Alexander did make an appearance, which I felt helped gain more focus, and help solve a lot of the conflict, but the conflict (and there was tons of conflict) was resolved much too quickly, and some of it wasn't even properly explained.  I'm happy that Jolene has her happily (and healthy) ever after, but I felt like we were just supposed to accept the fact that things worked out.  I would have liked to see a better explanation of how certain things came to a close, based on the fact that we had to wait so long for the conflict to come to a head, and the mere fact that we were dealing with so much at once.  I had a hard time understanding how Jolene now has relationships with people that she never met before when there is no explanation as to how they found each other (yes, we can logically guess how they met, but a simple conversation would have been helpful).  I also didn't like that there was no final resolution on Rosa, and what became of her at the end.  And while Jolene did have her moment and take what she felt was owed her as retribution, we never actually found out what happened to Anthony Falconi!  Is he alive or dead?  What was his final sentencing?

All in all, I feel like the attempt at this book was good, but it just wasn't executed well.  I know there were a lot of very positive reviews, and while I can see on the surface why the reviews would be good, Heart of Light just wasn't for me.  I know that there is another book coming out, another spinoff that is Marley's story.  Marley is Cam's sister who was abused as a child and ultimately decided Cam's profession.  Based on Heart of Light, and the little bit that we were given of Marley's story, I don't think I will be reading her story..

Heart of Light
Heart of Light

Other books by T.K. Leigh
A Beautiful Mess (A Beautiful Mess #1)
A Tragic Wreck (A Beautiful Mess #2)
Gorgeous Chaos (A Beautiful Mess #3)
Heart of Marley

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