A Change of Heart by Sonali Dev
Even with the parts of this book that I thought were well done, I just didn’t enjoy the book.
A Change of Heart is about Dr. Nic (not the fun “Hi everybody!” one), an alcoholic cruise ship doctor who lost his wife to a brutal attack after she found out about some nasty black market organ business. Now, two years on since the accident, Dr. Nic is an absolute mess. Like profound levels of messiness. And not in that good taco salad way.
When the setting is a cruise ship, I feel like I’m supposed to be in for a good time. Maybe that’s just me. But when I think cruise ship, I think travel, fun, perhaps a cozy mystery, definitely a saucy international love affair. This was a sad cruise for sad people. To sadland. On the Sadlantic ocean.
But wait! A woman named Jess comes on Dr. Nic’s ship and claims to be able to chat with his dead wife after receiving her heart in an organ transplant. The description led me to believe this was how the book was going to continue, and maybe we’d have an afterlife game of telephone for a while and then Dr. Nic would learn how to move on. Let me tell you, people, that is not how this went.
Not only is Jess just as tortured as Dr. Nic, but she’s scamming him. She can’t actually talk to his wife. Basically she’s just using him to help her son, which is noble in some ways but doesn’t make me root for her as a romantic interest. In any other book, that would make her the antagonist, wouldn’t it? She’s the villain. She has her broken past and her motivations, and they work for her but her actions are just kind of evil when it comes down to it.
Both characters were just so completely broken that it made it hard for me to want to continue reading. I felt like the author was layering on the emotional gore as a way to add shock value and poignancy to the work, but I just didn’t like it. We went several floors below my threshold for sadness on this one.
But it wasn’t all bad. I really appreciated getting to add some diversity to my reading list, and I thought the insight into Indian culture was fascinating. It definitely made the book memorable in a way that so many of the other contemporary romances I get to read aren’t. That being said, I just wish it could have been a better experience. The writing was, in general, not so bad. I liked the way the book was structured, with excerpts from Dr. Nic’s dead wife’s diary at the top of each chapter. I thought some of the prose was quite powerful. I didn’t love the inner monologues half of the time, but that’s likely just because I didn’t like the characters.
I know that this author has done better, because so many people are huge fans of hers. I’d never heard of her before, but I’d definitely consider picking up another of her books.
The mystery aspect would have been engaging, if I hadn’t just wanted to forget about the black market organ thing entirely because 1. I don’t want to think about body parts when I’m reading a romance. 2. Dr. Nic’s dead wife died looking into that and I know it would be a shame for her to have died for nothing but I’m so over Dr. Nic’s dead wife and I just want to leave that part behind.
If Dev had taken maybe one or two of the dark parts of this story (I’ve counted at least six to choose from), I might have been a little less critical. But surely having six or more pieces of your story that are hard to swallow will only serve to alienate readers? It sure alienated me.
I hate to do this, but I’m going to have to give this ⅖ stars. Maybe next time.