“Shadow Heart” by Pamela Taeuffer is a story of a young girl who is trying to overcome her dysfunctional family by working hard and earning her place at Stanford University. Nicky Young is a high school senior on her way to her dream college when she meets professional baseball player, Ryan Tilton. Ryan turns her world around and helps her experience a part of life she avoided and fear she wouldn’t fit in. There is so much I could talk about in this book but I don’t want to give away too much that I will pick a few of my favorite points.
My top 3 reasons why I love this book. First, the brutal honesty and accurate depiction of an alcoholic family. As a child of an alcoholic parents, I understand and developed many of Nicky’s defense mechanisms. I buried myself into studying and reading. Books had been my escape just as Nicky’s determination to better herself was hers. The learning to do things on your own and getting certain “information” from someone other than your parent is accurate. I also see the fear and ultimate defiance of Nicky is very real.
Second, the courting, wooing and sexual tensions between Nicky and Ryan remind me of my favorite romance writers, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and Julie Garwood. The melt your heart, burning sensation through your veins feelings is great and helped made the emerging relationship between Ryan and Nicky so real and hypnotic. I haven’t read scenes like this in a long time.
Third, the wonderful insights that the characters around Nicky give her as she enters into a world she avoided. There are several quotes that I wrote down as I read this book because I thought they were great thoughts to remember. One of my favorites is when Nicky tells Ryan: “I’m sick of being strong.” As I child of alcoholics, I understand the need and desire to show no weakness for fear of falling victim to the same vice. But being or acting strong can only go on for so long. I never learned to be weak until I met my husband and was able to completely rely on him just as Nicky is learning to do with Ryan.
My only criticisms are, first, the fact that Nicky decides to date her friend, Jerry, to play the “same game” as Ryan and with the ease she does so. And it is a game that she perceives is being played. Although I do like when Ryan confronts her about her manner of dress, he says, “Dressing like this isn’t how you make yourself an individual or become independent.” Someone who avoided boyfriends, she seemed to be comfortable with having two. Second, Ryan asks Nicky where she will live when she attends Stanford, she acts like she is leaving the state when Stanford is only about 45 minutes from San Francisco. She could commute or live on campus and Ryan could visit. I don’t understand her fear that when she starts Stanford, their relationship will be over. Unless it’s her defense mechanism again or her fear that the relationship will get in the way of school.
Despite those nitpicks, which I’m sure were dramatic devices, I really enjoyed this book and eagerly await the rest of the series. I’m curious to see if Nicky ends up with Ryan or Jerry. Personally, I hope its Ryan because Jerry seems like a player in the making. I am going to keep an eye out for the next book, “Fire Heart.” “Shadow Heart” will have a place on the “keeper” shelf on my bookcase.