Over the years, self-publishing has had a stigma attached to it. Why, I do not know – in the past six months I, as an avid reader have turned pages on a handful of self-published novels, and have found each one to be worth the paper on which they were printed. This one is different since it is authored by a lovely writer whom I have been honored to get to know certainly as an encouraging blogging buddy and as a friend. Amber sets her story in Oregon in the early 1800’s and on top of a setting she is passionate about (and researched), she also crafted a hard-hitting novel involving characters that are broken in unusual ways – imperfect beyond the “normal” character flaws readers usually encounter. The heroine is Sally Clay, a woman no longer a lady who was left to make her way in the world when the man she thought she loved spurns her for better prospects. Over the timespan of many months, Sally’s life becomes entangled with Joe and Seth Clifton – brothers with broken hearts of their own, and an Irish immigrant named Myghal.
As a blogger, the author has a very sweet personality in her communication with fellow authors and people, and yet she is always able to illuminate her opinion in an easily understood approach. This gift of hers transitioned into her first foray into fiction, with genuinely lovely results. Like any good author, Amber cares about her characters – from its five titular characters to a big-hearted cook in a logging camp, no one is forgotten. In Sally, we meet a woman who didn’t think she was worthy of a good life or pure love, and we sorrow with her over the anguish she experiences. Sally is ultimately who the story revolves around; she represents a pinnacle of what forgiveness in love means in the most tender way – not just by her being her own worst critic, also from her peers and in the most heartbreaking, unpredictable ways (in Joe’s acceptance and protection if not love, and Myghal’s secreted ardor) but from God. This is one of the driving points that ties into the epilogue, one that is comfortable and sunny – something that means more because of the journey. Perhaps the most interesting parts of the book is first, that each of the characters are broken after being ill-used by someone they thought trustworthy, and secondly the unexpected elements that take the story in unusual places.
In particular, all of the souls in need of forgiveness was thought-provoking as authors don’t usually tackle this much anger or sorrow in one group of characters; a story may deal with emotional fallout in “big” ways, not the characters all individually though who generally feature at least one character who is at peace with their past. There is one of these “bleeding hearts” who haven’t been trampled on by love; their hearts have been shattered – and still are! – and each is reacting differently in their present. To be honest, I think that in order to fit better with the pacing, it’d have been more impactful to limit the number of people who are in need of healing. This novel is shorter than most (which I don’t mind in the least) and with the time jumps (also, something Amber did well), this presents a problem with pacing considering that most “average” books struggle with getting the time frame “just right.” Addressing the things that will undoubtedly take a reader by surprise, let me just say – wow! There was one pivotal event that I never expected. The author handled it expertly well and used it to the stories advantage instead of letting it drag down what was a compelling plot.
Even though I cannot say that the setting was a favorite or that everything “clicked” (the mood swings of the villain or the “convenient” emotional fallout in the aftermath of a death of a character we never meet), I can say that Bleeding Heart was a sincerely poignant and purposeful story. In this book, any avid history buff will find a western treasure; the “voice” is profoundly genuine and unique, and is not a book you want miss out on journeying through – it’s one I know will find a permanent place on my shelf, virtual and actual. Bleeding Heart is not just a “pretty face,” it has a picturesque realism – just be prepared, you may need a tissue or two!
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Synopsis: Sally Clay’s livelihood has been snatched away, but in its place arises an opportunity to escape from her sordid past and an unrelenting, unwanted suitor. Boarding a train with a heartsick rancher and an enigmatic miner, she leaves Virginia City behind and heads to Northern California, waiting for the chance to make right what went wrong three long years before.
But the road to revenge is far from smooth. Sally soon learns that the jagged pieces of a broken heart can far too easily wound the hearts of others – and hers isn’t the only heart that’s broken. Tragedy and fear dog her steps as she flees from the redwood forests to the high desert and back again. Will her bleeding heart ever find a way and a place to heal?
A desperate soiled dove. Three men who come to care for her. One man determined to claim her.
All on a journey that will show them what true love really involves.
Coming Next from Amber: TBA with a tentative release date of winter 2014
Sincere thanks to the author for providing an e-ARC complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.