Losing Heart by Donna Brown is a fast-paced novella that covers a wide range of emotions in a small number of pages. Helen is facing the most difficult of issues: she is in need of a heart transplant and has only five months to live. Cut to 6 months later and Helen is very much alive and isn’t quite worried about living life on the edge: she’s having an affair with her doctor, Jack, while her husband and the mother of the donor become more and more suspicious.
Though Helen is cheating on her husband, she’s a likable narrator who’s been put in a tough position. She’s truly in love with Jack and her husband is less than sympathetic, to put it mildly. The grieving mother of the heart donor is using Helen’s guilt to insert herself into Helen’s life more and more. She’s already balancing a very tough situation, and then things take a turn for the dark. The donor’s mom weaves her way into Helen’s life, leading to a “Fatal Attraction”-caliber showdown.
Though on first glance Losing Heart may seem like a standard contemporary romance about an affair, Helen begins to face a real danger beyond a forbidden romance. This novella is as much a thriller as it is a romance, with a very creepy and effective villain. There’s a huge amount at stake: Helen’s health, her love life, her career, her relationship with her daughter, and finally her life. Losing Heart is a breezy romantic thriller that will keep you turning the pages. Just when Helen thinks all is safe, her life takes a turn for the worse.
The characters are well-rounded and believable, which makes this romantic thriller especially compelling. The whole set-up is riveting and relatable: why shouldn’t the mother of a donor feel some sense of connection to the recipient? And why shouldn’t the recipient feel an enormous sense of gratitude and responsibility for the donor’s mom? Put in this situation, most people would act similarly. It’s frustrating that people think Helen is being paranoid, but it’s also understandable. What makes Losing Heart so riveting is that it is both plausible and thrilling, making the plot and its terrifying climax all the more real.
The writing of star. If there’s any criticism, it’s that the novella could easily have been expanded into a full-length novel. While the pacing of the book is excellent, it wouldn’t be hurt by even more detail, even tangential information that doesn’t fully service the plot. Her daughter’s life and reaction to these developments are left mostly unexplored. The doctor is mainly a springboard for scenes with Helen, but we could have been given more of a window into his internal life and the pacing would not have suffered. Brown has created such a riveting plot with such a good concept that there’s definitely room for the world of the book to expand.
That “I wish it were longer” is the main criticism suggests Donna Brown has crafted a highly engaging novella. She is definitely a writer to watch. A major bestseller is very likely in her future.