I am continually impressed by JP Barnaby’s ability to evoke such incredible emotion, regardless of the story she writes. Her skill and range seem to increase with each book I read, and I am truly a forever fan.
JP Barnaby was recently a guest of Prism Book Alliance. Be Sure to check out their guest post here.
Title: A Heart for Robbie
Author: JP Barnaby
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: AngstyG
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Celebrated Young Adult author Julian Holmes pits the heroic characters in his Black Heart series against all different kinds of monsters. But when a critical heart defect threatens his son’s life, he finds he has no champion. No amount of books, classes, or practice can prepare Julian for the fight to save his beautiful son’s life.
Suddenly there are hospitals, transplant lists, and the nightmare of insurance red tape to navigate. In the midst of his trouble, Julian meets Simon Phelps, the insurance coordinator for Robbie’s case. Simon lives so deep in the closet he might never find his way out, but he dreams of exactly what Julian has. Then one night, drunken need and desperation brings them together, and a new fight begins.
Recently here on PBA we were discussing our experiences with book hangovers and what they felt like, why they occurred, and how we dealt with those after-effects of reading a story that simply took charge of our lives and wouldn’t let go even after we finished the last word. As a voracious and long-time reader, I have had a multitude of book hangovers, most of which culminated in a bit of a daze, perhaps a slight depression of having to let characters go before I was ready, or a need to step away from reading for a bit to let the emotions work their way out of my system. I may have shed a few tears or gotten several telltale “heart tugs” while reading those stories. (You know what I mean? That zing that hits you right in center of your chest when something affects you emotionally? Does anyone else feel that?) Of course all of this happened while I read A Heart for Robbie. I expected it to, not just due to the subject matter, but because it’s JP Barnaby. What I didn’t expect was my reaction after I finished the book. I read those last few lines, sighed and smiled through the tears in my eyes, and then went back to the beginning of the book to let the story get good and soaked in and to gather my thoughts for my review. I looked down at my Kindle, glanced at the title, and then – BAM! The waterworks really began. I was a bawling mess, despite the fact that my brain (and the author) reminded me that Robbie was imaginary. So why did I have such a strong reaction? Why do I still choke up when I merely think of the title an entire day after reading the last page? I’m still connected to that little life. I’m having a monster of a hangover because of Robbie.
Oh, this is a romance, through and through. Julian and Simon are beautiful together, and the relationship that blossoms between them is just what they each need. I ached for both of these men as they struggled with their own obstacles and loneliness. Heavily closeted Simon is clearly and superbly drawn as a tormented man living in fear of his own identity. I enjoyed his journey towards Julian, as well as his moving and finely crafted awakening as he begins to acknowledge that attraction and fully accept his own identity as a gay man. Julian is a successful but lonely writer who frequently has conferences with his characters. I loved his quirks and was fascinated by his writing process. His need to nurture and have a family is keenly felt, as is the delicate balance he tries to maintain between his desperation to be a good father and to cultivate a relationship with Simon. It was human, realistic, and touching to watch these two men wend their way down the path to a relationship, and the chemistry and intimacy they share is breathtaking. It doesn’t come without a price, however, and the consequences that arise are rather numerous. Though realistic, the obstacles that Julian and Simon face almost feel like too much to bear at times, given the enormity of the constant pain they endure due to Robbie’s condition.
Which leads me to the real gem in this story, the precious little treasure that caused the hangover: Robbie. He is the true hero, because, ultimately, this is a love story between a parent and child. Anyone who knows this author also knows that each of her stories comes from an extremely personal place, and she is at her best as she leads the reader into Julian’s world as a new father. Instant love and abject terror go hand in hand at Robbie’s birth and diagnosis in the beginning of the story, and those two emotions continue to drive Julian’s actions throughout the remainder of the book as the reader is drawn into the harrowing universe of a man fighting fiercely for the life of his child. JP Barnaby is particularly skillful with her apt descriptions of those first few petrifying days of bringing Robbie home from the hospital, and the agonizing fear of losing him at any time persists and doesn’t let go until the very end. This parental love, this unconditional, pure bond is passionately rendered throughout the story and made for the most achingly tender moments for me. The scenes with Julian and Robbie are incredibly powerful in their simplicity and intensity. I fell in love with this sweet little boy as his father did, and that is why I think of the title with tears in my eyes – because of Robbie. Yes, he is imaginary. However, isn’t it the mark of a great author when a character can snuggle their way into your heart and reside there, long after the book is closed? Thank you, Robbie and JP, for the hangover.
I would like to thank the author for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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