Touch My Heart
by Wayne Jordan, contemporary (2013)
Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86335-8


Touch My Heart is Wayne Jordan's tenth book, so congratulations is in order. I don't know him personally, but he came online first as the webmaster and owner of Romance in Color, the first romance website dedicated to romances with African-American characters. That was back in... what? 1999? The website is still going strong, and the author is still doing his thing, and I can't helping feeling happy for Mr Jordan even if he and I have never even exchanged a single email, heh, and he probably doesn't even know of me.

The author's foreword indicated that this was a rather difficult book to write as the author had to rewrite the whole thing after he wasn't pleased with the first draft. Illness, day job, and other intrusive real life elements were also mentioned. Reading this book, however, I wouldn't have known that the writing process was a bumpy process. This is easily the book with the smoothest narrative and romantic tension to date by this author.

Touch My Heart is part of a series revolving around some sisters who are only starting to reconnect with one another after being separated years ago by social welfare when they were orphaned. This one can stand alone very well, especially as the nature of the plot requires the two main characters to isolate themselves in a lovely waterfront property with sequel baits confined literally an ocean away.

Our widowed heroine Aaliyah Carrington has recently reconnected with two of her sisters. All seem fine at the surface, but deep inside, Aaliyah is feeling a bit restless. She still feels some grief over her husband's passing, but, with her sisters in her life again, it is as if something dormant is finally blooming inside her. Maybe it's time to move on and do something... but what?

As chance would have it, a physician friend calls up and informs her that there is someone that needs her help. Aaliyah's a nurse in a physiotherapy department, by the way. Dominic Wolfe is going to recuperate from his injuries in his waterfront mansion in Barbados. He has caused a string of nurses to flee due to his, uh, difficult nature, but Dr Graham is confident that Aaliyah can handle this man.

Seeing a chance to get away to someplace new to rethink the direction of her life, Aaliyah heads off to Barbados. She only realizes when she meets him that her patient is the Dominic Wolfe, an up-and-coming movie star whose career trajectory recently came to a halt when he sustained some injuries while trying to save a kid from a burning house - ooh, heroic. He has since sunk into a funk of self-pity, but Aaliyah knows she can get to him. The "getting to" process works both ways, however, so what will happen to these two?

In the past, I have found the author's efforts to be marred by clunky narrative and pacing issues, with frequent focus on mundane details that add little to the overall story line. Here, however, everything flows smoothly. Unlike with previous books, I read this book in a single sitting, and I didn't even realize that until I reached the last page. The pacing feels just right, there is enough build-up and enough cool down period after the climax. Everything feels well put together.

Aaliyah is a smart and capable heroine, with insecurities and doubts that add a sense genuine vulnerability to keep her from being too perfect. Dominic has baggage, and he also has an unhappy past. Now, a part of me still thinks that he has little reason to be as difficult as he is in this story. After all, he resolves to overcome his current condition early in the story, so to see him still making things tad hard for Aaliyah later on has me scratching my head. It is as if the author is just going through that particular motion with Dominic - that sounds dirty, but it isn't, really - because that's what was done in previous stories with this particular plot line. But the rest of him is fine. Dominic may be physically awesome - if we overlook his injuries for the moment - but he does have some vulnerabilities to make him seem human.

The romance develops nicely, with some fine building up of attraction and sexual tension. The author makes the effort to have the characters talk and interact in a manner that shows me that this is about a budding friendship as well as mutual lust reaching boiling point.

The plot isn't anything new, and indeed, much of this story can be on the familiar and even predictable side. But that's fine with me because there is a sweet and cozy romance here, between two likable real characters who click in such a wonderful way. If the author wants to make a statement with his tenth book, he couldn't have done it better with Touch My Heart.

Rating: 86


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