Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️
Heidi Hutchinson’s Key Change is a surprisingly beautiful story about learning to love yourself even if you don’t feel like you’re worthy of it. Going into it, I had no experience reading Hutchinson’s brand of romance, and if I must be honest, I wouldn’t necessarily call Key Change a romance. Instead, it seems more like women’s fiction with a side of romance. There are some aspects of it that you should know before going into it:
- It’s a slow burn. I loved it as its present pacing because the heroine of the story, Hannah, is striving to live a better life after decades of living as a self-important, mean girl. Even though the story begins with the more reformed version of herself, it takes most of Key Change for her to like herself. This is accomplished through her relationship with Johnny, but it also involves self-reflection and mindfulness on her part. In fact, that is probably my favorite part of this story: Hannah is intentional in her actions and thinking. When her thinking begins to spin out, she seeks out counseling to help her. Key Change is a book about living intentionally.
- This story is more fade-to-black than explicit. And I have never been so happy for it in a story. I loved the progression of Johnny and Hannah’s relationship. Hutchinson is incredibly careful with them, and given their background, it shows smart storytelling. If you’re looking for blatant $ex scenes, there is the hint of one in a flashback, but the book is more about Hannah learning to love herself in all of her iterations.
- This story is situated in the Knitting in the City and Cipher Security Systems world. Therefore, Quinn, Alex, and Damon make appearances. While they aren’t central to the story, these characters act as the wizened assistance that Hannah requires.
- While Johnny is a key component of Key Change, honestly, Hannah’s journey feels more important. As such, Johnny’s characterization is a bit flat. He is the type of hero whom you love to love because he acts heroically by stepping in to raise his younger brother, agreeing to work with Hannah with the shadow of their past covering him, and forgiving Hannah when he realizes the complications of her past. There is much that is complicated about him other than the disdain he has initially for his attraction to Hannah. Once he absolves himself of it, he exists in the story to love Hannah. It’s really that simple.
Again, I was surprised at how much I loved Heidi Hutchinson’s Key Change. Hannah and Johnny’s evolution acts to show that the hero and heroine don’t need to be perfect specimens for a story. They simply need to love and be loved, and that is definitely the case with this newer book to the SmartyPants Romance.
In love and romance,