Review of HEART'S DESIRE by Laura Pedersen (see her website)
Ballantine Books, July 2005
After a year in college, Hallie Palmer has all summer to figure out how to pay for her next year at college. Because if she can't come up with some cash, she'll need to drop out after a semester and work full time. Fortunately, her foster father, Bernard, offers to let her work in his garden again--and a high-stakes poker game has come to Cosgrove County, Ohio--and Hallie is something of a gambler. But both of these offers come with strings. Bernard has broken up with his longtime lover, Gil, and is despondent to the point of playing suicidal opera arias. And the late-night poker games come with a bit of a moral dilemma attached.
Then there's the virginity issue. Hallie thinks she may be a sex-maniac because she can't stop thinking about sex. There's the boyfriend from school--the one she was just at the point of having sex with. Then there's the ex-boyfriend from high-school. The one who seems to have more girlfriends than he can shake a stick at. And the nerdy future Bill Gates who's had a crush on her since fourth grade. Finally, there's the town bookie's cute grandson--even if he is math impaired and seems to read and write stories about death (and Bernard picks him up with his gaydar). Between the difficulties of finding a suitable guy and Hallie's own ambivalent feelings toward sex, love, and forever, she starts to wonder if she's going to be carrying her virginity into old age.
Author Laura Pedersen has created a houseful of delightful and vivid characters. Bernard, his larger-than-life mother (who is always ready to protest for justice and point out the Unitarians who have served America and the world so well), Bernard's ex-lover, Gil, the alcoholic chimpanzee, his mother's Italian lover, and even the town cop are all fully realized and fun. Hallie's life is full as she attempts to deal with the people in her life--helping them, but also suffering from an over-abundance of their attempts to help her out as well.
HEART'S DESIRE has a strong chick-lit feel--it's very much the story of a young woman's growth, with a strong element of humor as well as solid emotional content. It's the kind of book that makes you stay up way too late at night--reading just one more chapter. I'm very happy to recommend HEART'S DESIRE highly.
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