Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️
“Yes, brilliant men are my weakness. My personal brand of catnip. My fatal flaw.”
There are two truths about Professor A as a reader: 1) I adore a misanthropic hero or heroine, and 2) bringing two unlikely people together makes for some of the best romance you can ever read. These two truths are found encapsulated in Emma Lee Jayne’s newest book, Heart Smart, a Work for It series book in the Smartypants Romance series.
This book is equal parts workplace romance, hate-to-love romance, and opposites attract romance. As I was reading it, I thought that Jayne’s story feels an awful lot like a reverse My Fair Lady. How do you take a grumpy, quick to anger, “douche-canoe” of a brilliant researcher and professor and make him “look” worthy of a prestigious fellowship? You bring in an expert in the field of communication, an adjunct at the university where the “misanthropic” brilliant researcher works. When they meet, it is fireworks immediately, both as the researcher pushes back at the determined communications experiment and as the two quickly realize, they feel a spark of attraction between the two. This battle of wills lasts for much of Jayne’s story, and it creates the sparks on the page that engage you deeply into Holly and Max’s journey.
Here are all the reasons that I adored Emma Lee Jayne’s Heart Smart:
- When a difficult hero begins to show his humanity, it sparks my feelings. This is definitely true for Max in Heart Smart. Honestly, it takes much of the story for his kindness to be revealed, but when it happens, it causes you to feel more for Jayne’s characters. Max still retains his outer walls, but, as you find out, that is more about his “make-up” than his inability to be nice. You’ll need to read the story to understand this truth about this book. I also love Jayne’s characterization of him because he isn’t your average romantic hero.
- I am an adjunct just like Holly. And her challenges are my challenges in the world of academia, namely in its ability to take us seriously. What Jayne lays out in her story, the challenges of being a part-time, non-tenured professor, are true, and to see that revealed in Jayne’s story, made it feel like my story too.
- The constant push and pull of Max and Holly is the perfect foreplay for their eventual coupling. Be forewarned. This story is a slow-burn, but it is appropriate for Max and Holly’s story. If Jayne had rushed them into a physical relationship any earlier, I would have been disappointed. Jayne’s pacing for this story is perfect.
- There are these great moments of hilarity usually at the expense of Max. This creates pockets of relief from the difficulty of Max’s characterization. Jayne provides a perfect balance of strife and resolution as her story progresses.
- One of the most profound messages of this book has everything to do with food insufficiency for students and the achievement gap. Jayne doesn’t preach it; instead, she illustrates it beautifully through the course of Holly’s experience. What Jayne presents in this romance is true about those topics, and she offers a personal solution to the situation. However, this should be a discussion in our society that has bigger stakes than it currently does. I love that Jayne used her romance to highlight these issues for her readers.
- Holly’s heart is by far the best part of Emma Lee Jayne’s Heart Smart, hence its name. Through her example and her compassion for people and animals who society might deem as “broken,” we’re reminded that we are all a part of an ecology that is created for balance. As Holly loves on her pets and a grumpy hero such as Max, you recognize the power of “seeing” people beyond their appearances. That’s a powerful message in a world that is often too focused on our outer impression.
Once again, the Smartypants Romance universe has added another star or galaxy or planet with Emma Lee Jayne’s Heart Smart. Between Street Smart and Heart Smart, we’re reminded that there is some “work” in a workplace romance, and these authors are challenging notions about women in the workplace, community ails, and societal trials. I couldn’t put Heart Smart down, and I imagine you won’t either.
In love and romance,