Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Joe Salinas, an introverted, shy radio DJ, meets stripper Fess Kedley at a friend’s bachelorette party. Fess shows interest in Joe, but since Joe is shy and insistent about not dating, Fess decides to get to know Joe through phone conversations during breaks in Joe’s late night radio show, slowly weaseling his way into Joe’s life and confidences. Joe’s manager, Carlos sees what Fess is up to — flirting and foreplay — while Joe remains oblivious to Fess’ attempt at seduction.
Joe’s on-air persona is passionate, witty, and cutting, yet in person, Joe is insecure and so wrapped up in his own anxieties, his own head, that he does not understand what Fess sees in him. Joe and Fess share the same worries, that they are not good enough; they don’t even realize how alike they are in this respect. Joe has difficulty understanding Fess’ attraction to him (“He was Bigfoot trying to get it on with Captain America”), and since Joe also has trouble relating to people, he focuses his energy on his work and continuing his education.
Fess may be an actor and stripper, but he is intelligent and extremely perceptive and conscious of Joe’s feelings and fear of relationships. Fess has been admiring Joe’s voice over the radio waves for a while and realizes that Joe is skittish and needs to be approached with caution. Fortunately, Fess’ plan works and Joe consents to breakfast after work one morning, which opens the door to further opportunities for Joe and Fess to get to know each other. Joe still has his doubts and Stacy, Joe’s best friend, understands Joe and provides the needed kick in the ass regarding going on a date with the gorgeous Fess regardless of his insecurities and low self-esteem. One date leads to another and slowly Joe and Fess start to trust their feelings until Fess gets an acting job, which takes his attention away from Joe and Joe’s insecurities come back to the forefront, causing him to doubt Fess and himself.
What The Heart Thinks is a quick, in-depth look at how physical appearances dominate our perceptions of ourselves and affect our interactions with those around us. Joe and Fess click on an intellectual level as well as physically, but Joe’s low self-esteem is a roadblock in their budding relationship. There really was not much of a conflict, rather a lack of communication that had no real impact on the progress of the story.
The changes to Joe’s perception are slight and he fights them all the way, showing how difficult it is to change one’s perception of oneself. It takes time, and the change has to come from within. Joe’s mini-epiphanies about himself and his self-awareness are cute and come to light as he gets more comfortable with Fess. In particular, I found a conversation between Joe and Fess about Joe’s fantasies regarding Fess to be hilarious.
I was happy with the consistent use of first person POV, smooth writing and the editing, and Dean’s descriptors of the locales were smoothly incorporated into the story. The few secondary characters we met were a bit two-dimensional, yet believable, and Dean makes sure not to introduce too many supporting characters due to the length of the story, although more are insinuated. I will say, though, that there was virtually no conflict in What the Heart Thinks, which left me a little flat since I kept imagining the possible conflict scenarios that never materialized.
What the Heart Thinks was a sweet little love story with a little bit of angst, a lot of insecurity and a couple of very sweet guys. This is the perfect story for those days when you just want to sit back, relax and at the end say “aww.” It also serves as a reminder to love yourself first and that true beauty is found below the surface.