When Ivy Parker isn’t taking in strays, she’s crusading. After the death of her husband, and the loss of their unborn child, Ivy gets word that her great aunt in ill. She immediately packs her bags for PaloVerde, Texas. In between taking care of her aunt and running the café, Ivy begins her crusade to save the dying town. Unfortunately, the person who owns the bulk of the buildings is hiding behind a post office box, and isn’t returning her correspondence.
Lincoln Galloway III came to Palo Verde because it is all Betsey, his brother’s widow, has left. Long disowned by his father, Linc is summoned by the dying man, six months after his brother committed suicide. Feeling guilty for not being there for Garner, Linc vows to make sure that Betsey is OK, and to check out the blue-haired crackpot that has been writing him letters about saving the dead, dusty town.
Instead of a blue-haired grandma, he finds Ivy Parker. Determined to check things out on his own terms, Linc passes himself off as a drifter looking for work. As he begins his assessment of Betsey’s only remaining holdings, Linc finds himself drawn to the good-hearted people of Palo Verde - especially the determined Ivy Parker.
I’ve never been one for melodrama. Frankly, it’s hard to write, hard to swallow, and so often it can descend into Lifetime Movie-Of-The-Week territory. Not the case with What the Heart Knows, as Brashear is a real pro at wringing out emotion and tugging at the heartstrings.
Ivy is one of the more determined romance heroines I’ve come across. A believer in lost causes, she is the sort of person who makes a family wherever she can find one. Not only did she lose her husband and child; she also spent a childhood in foster care, separated from her two sisters that she is still trying to locate. When Linc blows into town she fiercely tries to guard her heart, but succumbs to the understanding he offers, and the desire her body and soul crave.
Linc is still carrying a bit of a chip on his shoulder concerning his emotionally distant father. He also feels incredible guilt for what he sees as his part in his brother’s death. Returning home, a place he would rather not be, he tries to right all the wrongs that were laid at Betsey’s feet.
What ultimately sinks this story a bit, is the nature of the “Big Secret” that Linc is hiding from not only Ivy, but also the whole town of Palo Verde. I was never convinced that he had to lie about his true identity. The author offers an explanation of protecting Betsey, and not wanting to drive up prices, but frankly it didn’t work. There is plenty of remaining conflict in the story without having to utilize this cliché. Ivy has abandonment and trust issues; Linc has an unresolved past with his father, Garner and Betsey; Ivy wants to save Palo Verde; Linc is thinking that cutting Betsey’s losses would be the best scenario for all concerned. Instead, the “Big Secret” continues to be a presence for ¾ of the book, and is almost too neatly wrapped up in the end.
That said, What the Heart Wants is a perfect candidate for readers looking to grab the Kleenex. Brashear wrung this reviewer dry during several portions of the story, and she has a knack for creating heart-felt, believable characters that you come to care about. With planned future books featuring Ivy’s sisters, readers should welcome the opportunity to revisit the interesting residents of Palo Verde.