– by Cheyenne Blue
I had been waiting for Cheyenne Blue‘s next novel in anticipation since “Code of Conduct.” The wait was over when I had a chance to read her newest, “A Heart This Big!” Yup, I was already curious about it ever since reading its blurb and reading its excerpt reminded me of why I always enjoyed Blue’s writing. So naturally, when the entire story became available to me, I read it in one sitting. What a delightful, sweet romance, indeed! A rich girl/poor girl, city girl/rural girl, single mum country romance, Blue’s writing style allowed the story to flow ever-so smoothly and the romance between the two MCs, Nina and Leigh, to develop organically all throughout the story that I was immediately invested. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride from start to finish!
Blue opened the story with a slice of farm life with Nina, the owner of her inherited farm, and her 12-year-old daughter, Phoebe. Then I was immediately introduced to two characters, Stella and Billy, who’d play a pivotal role in not just turning Nina’s life upside down but would also inadvertently play cupid to Leigh and Nina! Fate really works in mysterious ways, doesn’t it? Anyway, Stella was a very shy, quiet single mum to her very eager and energetic 7-year-old son, Billy, who was enamoured of one of the horses, Mr. Petey, in Nina’s farm. Nina ran a kids’ programme at her farm primarily catered to paying city kids so they could learn about rural life but also accommodated underprivileged kids who couldn’t pay like Billy. In order to offset the costs, Nina also ran a volunteer programme where people could volunteer their time to help with the farm maintenance, contribute to farming various produce that’d be sold in the farm shop where they’d get their own share of profits. Parents of kids who couldn’t afford to pay for the kids’ programme were also encouraged to volunteer in return for their kids’ participating in the programme.
I was immediately intrigued by Blue’s portrayal of Stella – shy, reluctant, quiet, tentative and uncomfortable around people (aka a loner), obviously cash-strapped, struggling to provide for her son, but indignant enough to not show her desperation. She was clearly not averse to farm work but practically forced herself to do so just so Billy could spend time with his favourite horse, taking riding lessons and practices, and the all-around farm chores which he loved very much. I thought there was much to be explored and discovered about her life, her back story, imo. I wonder if Blue would write Stella her own story in the future. I, for one, would be thrilled to delve further into her life story – young, single mum, struggling desperately to provide for her son who may or may not be in the spectrum. I decided that she was gay – basically in a similar situation to Nina’s in terms of how their single motherhood came about, but obviously in a much worse position, financially speaking. Oh, now that I’m typing this, I’m feeling more and more hopeful that Blue WILL write her a story! Besides being very interested in Stella, her incredibly adorable, energetic son, Billy, practically stole my heart from the start, what with his exuberant attitude and adoring behaviour! Oops! Apologies for going way off-tangent there with Stella and Billy!
Nina and Leigh’s story kicked off when a terrible accident with Billy and Mr. Petey led to Nina ending up in Leigh’s office, trying to convince the less-than-keen young partner in a prestigious law firm to take her case, after being served a claim by Stella for injuries incurred by Billy after his accidental fall from the horse. Blue’s description of Nina’s “fish out of water” demeanour and appearance was utterly effective in showing just how uncomfortable and out-of-her-league she was in the midst of Leigh’s world of high-flying, expensive, corporate, city lifestyle. Both Leigh and Nina’s first impression of each other was depicted with acute realism. I was delighted that Blue’s portrayal of Leigh, being this obviously much-sought-after young law firm partner from the city who wouldn’t have time for the Ninas of the world, was not someone who was immediately taken to Nina and her predicament, despite taking notice of her attractiveness. It made their story believable and the subsequent development flow organically.
Obviously, I loved Leigh’s character. Yes, call me a sucker for aloof ice queens, which Leigh defo was, at least on the surface! Besides that, I loved that she was career-orientated, confident, not afraid to own up to her deficiencies or mistakes. I utterly enjoyed all her discomfort and squeamishness when not only was she coerced into taking on Nina’s case pro bono but to her horror, she actually had to step foot into the muddy grounds of the farm, too! Oh, city slickers, eh? I so relate! In fact, I was learning, exploring and discovering Nina’s farm from Leigh’s vantage point and mindset as Blue’s meticulous description of every nook and cranny of the farm and the hectic farm life was ever-so visually captivating! I felt like I was there alongside Leigh, taking in everything Nina was doing with her farm!
Another thing that captivated me when it came to Leigh was her initial contentious relationship with Phoe, Nina’s 12-year-old kid….a grown up, more like! I immediately was taken by Phoe’s character – her utter maturity, her fierce independence and deep sense of responsibility, her quiet contemplative persona, at the same time contrasted with all the stereotypical attitudes that only teenagers exuded! Blue’s authentic display of Phoe’s subtle emotional and non-verbal nuances just made her even more endearing to me! Due to certain factors/assumptions involved related to the claim that was threatening not just the farm but the community’s future especially the kids, and more frightfully, Nina and her own livelihood, and her being the ever-astute child that she’d always been, Phoe’s doubts about Leigh and/or her intentions, at least in the early stages, were depicted so genuinely by Blue’s wordings that I could feel her indignant rebellion mixed with quiet vulnerability. Tugged at my heartstrings, good and proper! Leigh’s logic, emotional response and reaction to Phoe during those trying times was absolutely spot-on, utterly relatable! Hence, it was such a heartwarming experience to explore Leigh and Phoe’s relationship development and growth from initial distrust, then tentative comfort to the eventual, ever-so critical and crucial ultimate trust forged in organic stages throughout the story.
As for Leigh and Nina’s relationship, I loved the fact that they were worlds apart, not just because of their contrasting lifestyle – city vs rural – but also their socio-economic disparity – rich girl/poor girl. Despite such differences, Blue’s depiction of their mutual growing interest in and attraction to each other was grounded in realism and authenticity. There were no idealistic, pie-in-the-sky stipulations. Just pure emotional instincts, feelings of desire and allure which crept up on them that neither could deny as their professional relationship veered more into the personal as time went by. This magnetic pull that Nina seemed to have on Leigh slowly but surely tugged her out of her comfort zone insofar as her lifestyle went – immersed in the upper echelons of the society including dating professional people. I loved how Blue slowly peeled off every layer of Leigh’s protective armour, Nina’s insecurities, both of their deepening emotions toward each other, their growing mutual trust as their slow-burn romance took shape at every developing and growing stage of their relationship. Their entire journey felt real, sensual, alluringly genuine and honest. I could see them both as real people tackling their undeniable attraction toward each other, teetering toward a powerful energy called love. Whilst their growing romance was utterly compelling, I was gratified by the fact that Blue stayed true to Leigh’s character. However much Leigh felt for Nina, even to a point where she knew she had fallen for her client, Leigh was always steadfastly conscientious because that was who she was – honest and decent, scrupulous, honourable, with a strong moral compass. The attorney/client conflict was evident, obviously, but Leigh, the consummate professional, never crossed the line. I would have been a little dismayed had Leigh suddenly dropped all her principles just to accommodate the “romance” trope! It’d have been very out-of-character for her to do so. Needless to say, I was elated and endeared toward Leigh’s character even more! Thank you, Ms. Blue!
Back to the case on hand, the claim that would hang over Nina and Leigh’s heads in their entire journey, as I’m sure that was Blue’s intention, I must say, had me constantly on-edge as I sifted through every page, because as long as the case was still open, not to mention, this horribly unsavoury character who kept hovering around Nina like a human fly, knowing that something was brewing, I kept anticipating what would happen next, worst case scenarios and all! It was an unnerving journey for me as a reader. Very effective, indeed, because when everything finally fell into place, I found myself heaving a huge sigh of relief before continuing with Nina and Leigh’s ultimate ending. The seemingly impossible situation between these two endearing souls because of reasons you simply have to read to discover, was eventually resolved in a way that I was utterly satisfied, thanks to Blue’s commitment to telling an authentic love story against all odds.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It was such a refreshingly delight to explore how two people from opposite ends of the socio-economic spectrum, slowly fall in love, with obstacle after obstacle hauled at them mercilessly, be it professionally or personally, but finally, finally found their way toward a lasting togetherness against all odds. Love really endured for these two captivating women. Just wait ’til you read how their union came to be. For me, I was utterly pleased that Blue depicted their ending that way – the who, the what, the how. Cheers, Ms. Blue! Much obliged! In the end, I have one word to describe this story: Family. In all its representation – blood-ties, camaraderie, friendship, community but the crux of it was LOVE. Love that united two worlds. Love that bound together everyone and everything. Love that endured against all odds, in more ways than one.
I’d defo recommend this to all fans of romance! This one has an added bonus of exploring the power of love and conviction between two people from polar opposite worlds, lifestyles, worldviews, in the midst of a threat, who, against all odds, found a soul mate in each other. You can’t help who you fall in love with, can you? And you’d do whatever you can to be with each other, wouldn’t you? That’s the message that Blue relayed in this sweet, adoring, delightful and beguiling love story, imho. Read it!
p.s. Will we have the luxury to explore Stella’s own story in the future, Ms. Blue? Just asking!
**I was given, with much thanks and appreciation, an ARC of this book, by Ylva in return for an honest review.
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