Rebuild My Heart

Title: Rebuild My Heart
Author: Ariel Tachna
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Release Date: February 5, 2019
Genre(s): Contemporary
Page Count: 240
Reviewed by: Megan
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 3 stars out of 5

A love built to last.

When Derek Jackson is hired to renovate the LGBT bookstore that’s also Owen Hensley’s home, opposites attract. Derek is a big burly blue-collar guy, about ten years older than slight, sweet, and bookish Owen. As they spend time together, it becomes clear that each handsome outside leads to a beautiful interior. Far from the shy twink he appears, Owen has a rock-solid foundation that helped him put himself through college and start his own business. Behind Derek’s strong façade waits a tender heart that’s been battered by a rough family past—something Owen understands.

After Owen’s runaway nephew lands on his doorstep, it throws a wrench in their plans. Derek can’t ask Owen to choose, but he doesn’t think he can take second place with his lover the way he always has with his family. Can they find a way to keep their romance standing?

The book Rebuild My Heart is about two lonely men who find each other and have to decide if they can put away the baggage of the past and forge a future together. This book is the 4th by Ariel Tachna in the Lexington Lovers series. This book would be better read in conjunction with Stage Two, since the characters from that book have significant page time. Thane Dalton from Stage Two is one of the MC’s best friend. This is a cute story. I use the word cute deliberately here, not as a placeholder.

Owen Hensley is a slender lithe twenty something with pink hair and a business degree. I liked the juxtaposition between his appearance and the good head he had on his shoulders. I get the feeling he was misjudged often because of his looks. The cover of the book represents him well. Owen owns a bookstore housed in an old house in Lexington. He is from a small town in Eastern Kentucky. His father was the pastor of what sounds like an evangelical church, where a coming of age ceremony involves snake handling. Owen left home before his coming of age ceremony. He has been disowned by his family. But he has made a good life for himself in Lexington. He trusted the wrong guy once and was burned. So, he’s gun shy about getting back into a relationship.

Derek Jackson is Thane Dalton’s business partner in Dalton Construction. Dalton Construction is very successful. They do great work and are very busy. Derek’s father was unfaithful to his mother with his Stepmother. It has left him being distrustful of relationships. His shrew of a stepmother, who treats him and his brother badly, has made him feel unworthy of love.

This book featured the opposites attract trope, one of my favorites. Derek is a big burly strong guy who works with his hands. He did not go to college and feels lesser than because of it. Owen is more erudite, well educated and a bibliophile. Who doesn’t love a bookstore hero? I certainly do. The idea that someone can get a degree, a small business loan and open a bookstore featuring, among other things, a large LGTBQ section and that it can thrive to the point where it’s owner can renovate and needs to expand. Awesome!

Derek is immediately attracted to Owen when he, representing the construction company he is a partner in, goes to Owen’s bookstore to do an estimate for a renovation. The attraction is mutual, but generally Derek doesn’t ask guys out that he is doing work for. The guys have a sweet build up to the physical side of their relationship.

The other thing I liked about this book was its focus on found family. Neither main character has a great family life. Derek Jackson, specifically, has a place with his best friend, Thane Dalton and Thane’s new husband and nephews, the cast of Stage Two. He is feeling left out lately after Thane’s marriage to Blake, not because they are leaving him out but they are all adjusting to Thane having a significant other. Thane’s two nephews, Kit and Phillip, are particularly lively and add some much-needed energy to the story. They have the normal teen angst going on. The two boys are working with Derek on Owen’s renovation so they are heavily featured.

I really took issue with Derek’s family life and in particular the depiction of his Stepmother, Marlene. Derek’s father had an affair with a woman who became his Stepmother. Throughout the book, Derek’s Father and Stepmother loomed large, while his Mother was largely absent. We find out at nearly 50% that his mom had died. But I think she was alive until his teens at least. Derek is a disappointment to his Stepmother and his father never intervened. Whether it was because he didn’t go to college, and worked construction, was best friends with “bad boy” Thane Dalton, nothing Derek or his brother did pleased their Stepmother. Everyone in Derek’s life seems to know that Derek’s feelings of self-worth, or lack of it, has a lot to do with his stepmother. From my reading, Derek’s mother was a loving woman, and was very unlike Marlene the stepmother. She built her son up. So, why do such a disservice to his mom’s memory by not reaching for any of the worth she instilled in him? Why only go toward the negative stuff that his stepmother spews. I believe there should have been more balance in his feelings. I know the bad stuff is easier to believe (Thank you Vivian from Pretty Woman). However, isn’t part of growing up to be able to know yourself in a way that allows the comically evil stepmother’s put downs to roll off without doing too much damage. Why couldn’t Derek take Marlene’s disappointment with a grain of salt and been like, “Eh, Marlene’s disappointed again. Glad everyone else in my life thinks I’m awesome.”

The portrayal of Derek’s Stepmother is a caricature. To me, she was over the top evil. I may be particularly sensitive to this since I am a stepmother. I often give an eye roll when stepparents are made the villain. And, the fact that Derek waits until he is almost 40 years old to take a stand against his stepmother seems like a lot of time wasted. When he finally did stand up to his Stepmother and father it was at the 88% mark and the conversation was very brief. It was like, all done now. I felt like it’s a shame this man didn’t have that 5-minute conversation 15-20 years ago. It felt a bit like the drama of Derek’s family was used to prolong the drama in the book. Needless to say, the fact that he couldn’t please his Stepmother and his father never stood up for him really affected Derek and his ability to have a relationship.

When Owen’s nephew from the same evangelical cult leaves before he has to do the snake handling ritual (yikes) he flees to Owen in Lexington. Owen showed himself to be exceedingly competent in getting the boy set up to stay in his home and finish school. I love Owen’s competence. The arrival of Owen’s nephew proves to be too much for Derek, though who breaks things off with Owen because Owen doesn’t seem to have time for him. Derek had a front row seat to when Thane became guardian to his two nephews. He knows how hard it is, yet when Owen’s nephew comes to live with him Derek is like I’m out. This was a very selfish move.

Everything worked out in the end. Our characters got their happily ever after. I’ll end like I began, Rebuild My Heart is like a palate cleanser, a nice stop on the way to something more intense and passionate. There was not a ton of passion between the characters. Derek was fine but kind of obtuse and selfish. I really liked Owen because he was such an interesting juxtaposition between flamboyant appearance an practical, competent business owner. Watching how he handled things that came his way was my favorite part of this book.

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Advanced Review Copy

Galley copy of Rebuild My Heart provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange of an honest review.

A sensible bookstore owner with pink hair finds love with his opposite, a big bear of a man who works in construction. These men have more in common than they think!

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