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Book Review: Heroes at Heart 1-3, by Susan Laine

Code Yellow

 Heroes at Heart

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Book 1: Yellowbelly Hero

Yancy Bell was bullied in high school for being a yellowbelly, not because of any cowardice, but because of his nervous bladder condition. It’s Yancy’s first year in college, and he’s hoping to make a fresh start.

Three days before Christmas, the campus is empty. Having to pee on a midwinter night leads Yancy to meet Curt Donovan huddled in a dark shower stall. Curt’s a troubled jock whose coming out went badly, so he plans to end it all.

But Yancy adamantly refuses to let Curt go through with his irrevocable plan. With just one dark night to talk Curt around, Yancy has to win the trust of a stranger who only sees one way out.

Book 2: Yellow Streak

Yancy Bell, a book geek with a bladder problem, saved the life of suicidal gay jock Curt Donovan. But when Curt returns to college after the Christmas holidays pretending he doesn’t know Yancy, warning bells go off.

Has a frightened Curt decided the safety of the closet is preferable to coming out? A remorseful Curt comes knocking on Yancy’s door in the dead of the night. Yancy wants to help Curt find the courage to proudly be himself and pursue his dreams, but first Curt needs to come to terms with his past acts. Yancy can only hope their reunion ends in light, not darkness.

Book 3: Code Yellow

Two years have passed since that long, dark, night of despair and near death when English-lit geek Yancy Bell met dancing jock Curt Donovan. Now a couple living in New York, they appear happy and well suited to one another.

But appearances can be deceptive.

Yancy feels Curt is growing distant, and they barely see each other. At Juilliard, Curt has bonded with a new friend, Greg. Yancy fears his relationship with Curt is coming to a head. Meanwhile,Curt harbors a secret that could spell the end of Yancy’s love for him.

Yet neither man dares to confront his fears—or the other.

Will their fate be a code yellow or a golden opportunity?

~

Book – Yellowbelly Hero (Heroes at Heart #1)

Author – Susan Laine

Star rating – ★★★★

No. of Pages – 82

Cover – Simple, effective

POV – 1st person, past tense, 1 character POV

Would I read it again – Yes!

Genre – LGBT, Suicide, Contemporary, College

.

** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **

Reviewed for Divine Magazine

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To start with, I want to say just how much I loved this story. I mean, it tackled a really difficult topic – suicide – and did it with sensitivity and understanding that you don’t often see in books.

I’ll admit, I’m not fond of characters talking to readers, so I’m really not a fan of 1st person, but this one grew on me after a while. It was important to see things from Yancy’s POV and I liked that it didn’t stray from him, to show Curt’s POV. Although this was his story, it wouldn’t have been as effective had it been in his POV.

The entire story takes place over one night, but it didn’t feel as if it was stretched out on purpose, just that these two people had a lot to say and a lot of issues to confront.

I really liked the pelvic exercise scene. It was so cute and funny, allowing for a more understanding view of Yancy’s nervous bladder condition, as well as a moment of levity. It was nice how they both gave a little and took what they needed from the conversation, sharing parts of each other, while skirting around the bigger issue until they were ready to open up.

I also really liked how this wasn’t your stereotypical Jock-Geek story. This time, the Jock is the vulnerable, unsure one and the Geek is the hero, showing up just in time to save the day.

Yay for Will, too. It’s so nice to see that, among the talk of homophobic parents and accusations that Curt had to deal with, he has someone on his side. I also like how the author dealt with Curt’s realisation of what he’d almost done and how Will would have felt, upon discovering that.

~

So, why is it not a 5 star? Because, for some reason, “The End” has become obsolete in the MM genre, including here. When I reached 72% of the story, I expected another 20% at least of content. What I got was 47 pages of adverts. 28% of adverts! Now, I’m sorry, but I’m already a fan of this author and if I want to read more of their books, I can look them up on a dozen different websites. I don’t need a list of every book they’ve ever published, along with the blurb and book cover of all the books. I gets even more annoying when I’ve already read half of them.

Why does this require docking a star? Because, although I assume this is the publisher’s doing, I’ll admit, I felt cheated out of the story. I had hoped for some glimpses of the next morning or something more, to fill those 47 pages with, but I never got it. The story ended with a HFN, but it felt like there was something missing and that it ended a little too abruptly.

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Favourite Quote

“A jock and a geek getting it on? Wasn’t that at the top of the list of things that suggested hell had frozen over or the world was about to implode over its impossibility?”

~

Book – Yellow Streak (Heroes at Heart #2)

Author – Susan Laine

Star rating – ★★★☆☆

No. of Pages – 82

Cover – Simple, nice

POV – 1st person, past tense, 1 character POV

Would I read it again – No.

Genre – LGBT, Contemporary, College

.

** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **

Reviewed for Divine Magazine

.

For me, this was another one that was too short. Though it very skilfully dealt with the aftermath of a suicide attempt, in an understanding and sympathetic manner, half the story was about the progression of Yancy and Curt’s relationship and it just didn’t feel that authentic to the original story.

Recounting the events of the first story in 1st person didn’t work for me. It felt foreign and didn’t read well. It could just be because I’m not a fan of 1st person as it is, and having the character talking to a reader is offputting for me, in any case. Either way, it didn’t work for me.

I loved how Yancy and Curt remained open with each other, talking through everything and really learning more about each other. Their relationship progressed fast, however, and didn’t feel quite right. They jumped into this, while barely knowing each other, and didn’t really make a conscious attempt to learn more. I certainly connected to these two in book 1, but this time around, if I was to read about their relationship, I wanted bonding, dating and the deep, meaningful connection of book 1. What I got was a lot of ‘hot’ moments and arguing.

There was sudden jump in timeline at 40% that took me by surprise, as well. It wasn’t explained until two pages into the chapter, which made it quite confusing to tell when or where they were.

This is also a pet peeve of mine, but I’m throwing it in there – EW! to the max for the use of “heated teat” in the sex scene. Ew! Ew! Ew!

Unfortunately, the blurb is slightly misleading. It suggests that Curt ignoring Yancy is a huge deal, which it’s not. It’s a minor blip, right at the start of the story and it takes barely until 24% before things are ironed out. The rest is about the continuation of their relationship, which wasn’t at all what I expected.

Sadly, I have to say I’m disappointed. Though the first half was authentic to the previous book, in tone and in characterisation, the second half was like a totally different story. Or, like these characters years down the line. It all happened too suddenly, with not enough exploration of the time in between for my liking. I also have to admit that I don’t see how there would be another book. There isn’t space for one, with Yancy and Curt getting their HEA in this book.

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Again, there was an issue with length. The story ended even earlier than book 1, at 63%. I really, honestly, feel cheated out of more storyline and plot, because I’m missing 37% of the book. I don’t mind the excerpt from book 3, but it’s 16 pages (2 chapters) and I don’t need that much. I also don’t need a further 47 pages of adverts.

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Favourite Quote

“He was having fun with his teammates. And me? I’d gone back to being the invisible boy.”

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Book – Code Yellow (Heroes at Heart #3)

Author – Susan Laine

Star rating – ★★★★☆

No. of Pages – 79

Cover – Nice and simple, but makes me think of a funeral

POV – 1st person, past tense, 1 character POV

Would I read it again – Maybe.

Genre – LGBT, Contemporary, College

.

** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **

Reviewed for Divine Magazine

.

This one returned to the essence of book 1, for me. It went back to the time when Yancy was the only thing between Curt and his dark thoughts. When each other was the only thing keeping them together and sane.

There were a lot more heart-warming, sad, and funny moments in this story than in the previous book. For me, that’s what saved it. It dragged on just a little in the middle and at the end, when everything seemed resolved and there wasn’t much else that needed to be told. Unlike the other stories, this one also took up the full set of pages, apart from the first 10% of advertising.

If possible, this story could have been a little shorter, but overall it worked.

The characters were just as sweet and interesting, depressed and lonely as the first book. While Reggie and Dylan added some much needed comic relief, every now and then. Their bromance equally the sweet moments of Yancy and Curt’s romance until it was hard to tell which pair were the couple.

Again, I’m not sure there’s scope for more, but I’m told there will be another story. Only time will tell whether it’s needed or not.

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Though this is an unformatted ARC, I was miffed to see that there was 10% of “promotional material” for As Good as Gold at the beginning. I can only assume this is an excerpt from the next book? Either way, it’s unwanted. Unless it’s a Prologue, there shouldn’t be anything in front of Chapter 1 except maybe copyright info, a blurb or a contents page. If it definitely is about the next book in the series, I can’t understand why it’s at the front, before I’ve even read book 3.

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Favourite Quote

“My jaw trembled, and my vision blurred with tears as I made my way to the one place where I could close the door, cry, and shatter to pieces in private.

“Wait.””

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