Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Tropes: second chance romance; teacher-student; broken hero; contemporary romance; small-town romance
Benson Bexley is an enigma. Well, not really. He has the soul of a wounded boy in the body of a man. What this does for K.K. Allen’s Heart of Stone is create a MMC who hides his emotional wounds behind traveling, creating art, and bedding women. At first glance, Benny is hard to love as a character. Allen has crafted in him a hero who hides his pain behind a cold, impenetrable exterior. It takes the implacable Brooklyn to challenge him. And challenge him she does. Allen’s Heart of Stone is a beautiful emotional journey of a man needing to forgive himself so that he can live the abundant life he deserves.
At first, it is really hard to like Benny Bexley. Yes, he’s charming and gorgeous. He can be witty, but his charm feels overwrought at times. Even more, in my opinion, he objectifies Brooklyn. It takes her self-control and acerbic wit to put him in his place. It’s those moments that made the book a bit magical. Until Benny begins to accept his past, allow himself to be vulnerable, and stop running away from his problems, he is difficult to love even though you know his trauma. Allen intentionally draws this as it ramps up Brooklyn and Benny’s steam level when they eventually fall into bed together.
While Brooklyn’s strength is impressive, her confusion over her hidden feelings for Benny added a layer of complication to Heart of Stone. Her friend, Olivia, doesn’t offer the best advice, and Brooklyn’s choices to hide information from him undermine the first impression of her inner strength. Honestly, Brooklyn hiding her relationship with Benny felt like a machination on Allen’s part to heighten the story’s drama, and it was my least favorite aspect of this romance. Benny’s loss and subsequent familial trauma served as enough angst for this story. Adding that layer felt like Allen was gilding the lily of her story’s angst.
Now, by my estimation, Heart of Stone is Allen’s steamiest romance. At least from my recollection, Brooklyn and Benson’s chemistry is pure fire. They simply cannot stay away from each other, and Allen deftly amps up the inferno of their physicality as the story’s emotion grows.
K.K. Allen’s Heart of Stone will turn the hardest heart soft as Benson and Brooklyn find their happy ending. To get there, you have to wade through the muck of the Bexley family drama. Thankfully, this reader knows how to put on her boots and use a shovel.
In love and romance,