Rating: 3.75 stars
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Dr. Brendan West has taken a temporary job at St. Hawk’s hospital to get a break from his regular life for a bit. One day he meets Evan, a heart transplant patient, and feels enough of an attraction to ask out the vibrant gardner. To Brendan’s disappointment, it turns out that Evan is already in a relationship with Griff, so he assumes the things with Evan are off the table.
As it turns out, however, Evan and Griff like to occasionally bring in a third partner and they have set their sights on Brendan. At first he is unsure about it all, not wanting to get in the middle of things between them. But the guys are persuasive and when Brendan agrees, the threesome have a fabulous night together. But Brendan is only in town for a temporary assignment, and doesn’t want to let things go past one night together lest they get too serious. However, all three men find that they are interested in much more than a night, if only they can find a way to make things work.
I am a sucker for menage, so I was eager to give this story a try. Take Heart is a light, fun story that is right on the novella/novel line, so it is a quick, easy read. For the most part I found this one enjoyable. It takes place in one of those magical towns where everyone is happy and complete and people come from all over to bask in the town’s glow. I enjoyed the set up of Brendan coming in to this existing relationship and trying to figure out if and how he might fit in. I also liked the characters, the quirky, hippie Evan in particular. This is the first book in a new series, and I think Okati sets us up nicely, introducing us to the hospital and its assortment of requisite hot gay men who are presumably sequel fodder, and giving us a feel for this unique town.
I did have some stumbling blocks here, however, many with the writing style and structure. First off, we get a shifting POV among the three men with no clear delineation’s between their viewpoints. They would shift from scene to scene and I frequently had to stop and try to figure out whose head we were in. I also often found the writing confusing and had a hard time telling what was going on, especially in the sex scenes. I know it can be challenging with three people, but I couldn’t follow what was going on most of the time, even things as basic as if they were standing, or which direction they were facing. Okati also has a tendency to use lots of metaphors/similes, and while I am a fan of evocative language, they sometimes seemed so heavy handed or awkward as to pull me out of the scene completely. Just a few examples:
…circling around the question of Brendan like a hornet around a glass-encased Popsicle…
…the cheeky twinkle ever present in Griff’s eye, like the points of light in a glass of good brandy…
…with as much hearty good cheer as a bowl of robust chicken soup.
I mean, the soup one doesn’t even make sense to me. Soup isn’t cheery. You may feel cheerier after eating it, but to be as cheery as a bowl of soup? I just found these so jarring and distracting I started highlighting them, which is always a bad sign.
I also had some trouble with the relationship end of things. First off, Evan and Griff seem to have this incredible ability to have entire conversations without speaking. Not just a glance or an mutual understanding, but specific, detailed messages they can send with just a look. And when they aren’t having these lengthy silent exchanges, they are talking about Brendan right in front of him and he doesn’t seem to hear them somehow. I also felt the stumbling block for these guys was somewhat contrived. Brendan is clear when they hook up that he is in town temporarily and so there can be nothing long term, which makes sense. But somehow that turns into “this can only be a one night stand,” which isn’t the same thing. Especially because at first Evan and Griff are only asking Brendan to play with them, one of a series of casual thirds in their relationship. So why does it only have to be one night, when all of them want more and Brendan isn’t leaving town yet? Then these guys fall for each other super fast. From what I can tell we are talking about two hookups, and after the second time Brendan notes that he knows their house as well as his own. They have barely spent any time together and they are all in love and then everything neatly resolves, with no real discussion about the complete life upheaval involved.
I think given the length and tone of this story, I can excuse things not being fully fleshed out in the relationship department. If you go in with the idea that this is light fun, I think the book works better. I definitely had some issues with the writing style, as well as the simplicity of the plot, but I found it entertaining nonetheless. If you are looking for quick and easy and enjoy menage, this one may still be a good choice.