Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Heartquake by Terry Newman is a heterosexual shifter romance novel following the romance of coffeeshop owner Charlee Lightheart and billionaire lion shifter, Riley Brockton. Charlee is making coffee while dreaming of something more than this provincial life when Riley steps into her shop and the pair are immediately drawn to each other. Riley is looking for his soulmate, and while he’s clearly into Charlee, he doesn’t want to make a mistake, as he had in the past. The plot is really great in this book and I’d love to go on and on about it, but I’ll do my best to keep it spoiler free except for things revealed in the description of the book by the author.
The writing style was very easy to read. The chapters are short and to the point, and it’s an easy story to get into while relaxing for the evening as a result. I never felt like I had to trudge through anything too lengthy and while some chapters were maybe a little too short, I think overall a good balance was struck. But, I think where the writing could have been improved was that it felt like it was missing a few important details. Specifically, details about what the characters look like. It’s eventually brought up that Riley has amber eyes and tawny brown hair and Charlee has green eyes and blonde hair. But even those few descriptions took a while to pop up in comparison to other details like Riley being rich. Skin color is never mentioned, and while that usually means that characters are supposed to “default to white”, I had an impression that perhaps Riley is mixed-race or of African ancestry due to the African lion element of his shifting and the heavy African decorations in his office, but I just don’t know, and I wish I did know. I can’t remember many physical descriptions for other characters either so either they’re not there, or they weren’t memorable enough for me to make a note.
There are some little touches that I really liked in the writing, and I’ll just point out one example: I really liked that instead of backstabbing, Riley uses the word backbiting. Little word choices like that bring extra flavor to the story as a shifter story.
The characters were definitely enjoyable. Charlee is sweet, in a sort of Disney Princess way – and I mean that as a good thing, I swear! Not one of the old Disney Princesses waiting around for someone to fix everything for her. Charlee is the kind of selfless hero who can and will fight for the right thing. She’s got her own set up, her own home, her own business. She’s established as a person and has a life that’s fascinating on its own without a man. She has people who look up to her and she stands up for to the best of her ability. Having Prince Charming walk through the door is just the cherry on top.
Riley is… rich. When he’s introduced, there’s a lot of focus on how rich he is, as if that’s supposed to be his primary attractive trait. I don’t even know what sort of hair or eyes he has before I know what kind of fancy expensive suit he’s wearing. I felt like I was supposed to be in love with him because of his bank account. However, he does prove to be a dreamy and perfect man in many other ways. He brings flowers, asks for consent, makes fresh breakfast from scratch. He listens to details of what Charlee likes and remembers them, he rearranges his schedule so he can stay the morning for her. He wants to make time for her, without being too overbearing or possessive about it. He’s a dream come true, and that was honestly lovely to read.
There are other good characters – in particular there’s a pair of old men at the coffee shop that I thought were very amusing – and all fill their roles nicely in the story.
The worldbuilding… could use a little bit of work. I like the premise of the worldbuilding, but the execution of it needed refinement.
The big issue I had with the worldbuilding has to do with how shifters are perceived by the general public. At first, it comes across that society thinks the idea of shifters is an urban legend with the respectability and credibility of Bigfoot rather than something to be taken seriously. But, further into the story, it’s clear that society at large *does* know that shifters do really exist. Which makes me wonder… why do police at the very start of the book dismiss constant calls from women in town complaining of a lion staring into their homes through their windows? They call around to find out if a lion has escaped from a zoo or anything and find no evidence of a missing lion, so basically ignore this complaint as hysteria. But if you lived in a world where shifters were a fact, knew there was a family in town rumored to be lion shifters, and had constant reports of a lion potentially being a peeping tom only targeting women, you would do something about that. Normally I’d put this as red flag behavior from Riley, but it could be his brother or a different family member, so I’ll let it slide.
By the end of the book, I felt like shifters as a concept were meant to have a persecution and prejudice element, though that wasn’t too heavily leaned into. I feel I would have liked that elaborated on at the very beginning, to set the stage of the world, rather than having to piece together bit by bit through the whole book whether or not the world at large knows shifters exist and just how big of a deal or risk it is for one to be outed. So, the concept was good. But it just needed to be clearer earlier on in the story. And maybe an example of out shifters of a different kind provided somewhere in the cast to show why the Brocktons keep it a secret, to avoid prejudice attitudes.
On to something I really, really liked: the plot. Heartquake’s plot is really good. I love romance stories that have more than just a romance. I like when the big conflict is bigger than just “Will they or won’t they?” while also being entwined with the romance, and this book manages to do that fantastically. There’s romance entangled through the main plot, of course, but also a huge focus of the book is on a fracking company that’s destroying the water supply for the town that Charlee has to fight against by running for office. Now THAT is a compelling plot. I’ll be honest, it did get a little business heavy for what I expect from a shifter romance story. Very focused on all the business stuff, which got a little much sometimes and I think might be off-putting to some people looking for fluff fun. But I did really love the plot, and I’m very anti-fracking, so enjoyed the heck out of this book for that reason.
The romance is very sweet in a soulmates sort of way, but not in a “you have to be my soulmate because *random plot point* demands it so you have no choice” type of way. I felt like there was a choice, and that if something big enough were to happen, agency to make decisions one way or the other about the relationship still remained, which I liked a lot. The romance was respectful, kind, sweet, hot, electric, and overall just lovely. I also liked that the book took place over months, so I didn’t feel like it was at all unrealistic.
A bonus point to the romance is that I didn’t see anything unhealthy in the romantic relationship of this book! Which is fantastic, because it’s so hard to do compelling and healthy relationships in books. Honestly, even my own book isn’t what I would call 100% healthy relationships because, well, it was just more interesting that way. But the plot for Heartquake really did provide compelling enough reasons to give drama without having to rely on any unhealthy behaviors from the couple and I really appreciated that. I could just enjoy the romance.
I’d rate Heartquake by Terry Newman the following, with 5 being the max:
⭐⭐⭐ 3/5 for the writing style. It’s quick and easy to read, but was missing a few important descriptions for me.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4/5 for the characters. Charlee is endearing and Riley is a sweet boyfriend!
⭐⭐ 2/5 for the worldbuilding. I was left confused about the nature of the world for far too long.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5 for the plot. The way the plot about the anti-fracking movement, election, romance, and shifters all blended together was perfect.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5 for the romance. I enjoyed the sweetness and genuine romantic feeling of this couple.
🩺🩺🩺🩺🩺 5/5 for the health of the relationship. Riley and Charlee are great together.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Overall, I’d rate this book a 4/5. If you want a plot heavy romance with a rich lion shifter who will absolutely treat you right in every way, pick up this book!
🔥🔥 2/5 for the heat level. This isn’t part of a grade, just a statement. There’s on-page sex, and it’s very lovely, but not super detailed or graphic.
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