Sunday, August 10, 2014

Patch Up Your Heart With Some Sweet, Home Comfort

First Paragraph: '"We need to update out mission statement." Lara was sitting with her legs crossed and scribbling on her notepad.'

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'Betrayal' is the first book in 'The Broken Heart Refuge' series by Martina Munzittu. Like the last book I reviewed I had the pleasure of working behind the scenes with the creation of this book too. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process, and would love to do it again sometime. Anyway, onto the review.


In a house in Hampstead lives Nonna Pina. 'A caring, gentle and warm Italian granny' who is always cooking, and who opens her home to those in need of healing. This is the Broken Heart Refuge. A place where people can come to relieve some of the pain in their hearts, and hopefully a place where they can recover.

This year marks the 10th anniversary, and things are still going strong. The focus of this book is on three people- Nonna Pina (who is the main character, but acts like a background character. Reacting rather than doing); Mary (a recent widow who thinks her late husband was hiding a secret); and Lisa (a 20-something who is in love with her best friend's boyfriend). 


The writing style of this book reads much like that of a cozy mystery, minus the murder. Almost slice-of-life mixed with home comfort. In fact, comfort food is a big  part of this book- with all the baking and cooking that goes on. I don't think I can recall a single scene with Nonna Pina in it where she is NOT cooking something. This story is a big helping of home comfort.

Lisa is the character given the most focus. It's unclear whether this is her first time in 'love', but I questioned whether she really was in love with him, or whether she thought she was because he noticed her. She is the shy, wallflower common in many stories, and she is struggling to gain confidence, figure out her feelings and to not hurt her friend. Perhaps it evolves into love (maybe?), but it certainly seems like a school-girl crush at the beginning. Especially considering she's never really spent much time with the man she's supposedly in love with. Either way it's largely irrelevant. What matters is that she's hurting, and this is what draws her to the Broken Heart Refuge.

Almost every character in this book is a broken heart. Essentially, a community of close-knit people has been built out of the foundation founded by Nonna Pina, and they are more of a family than mere acquaintances. I mention this because it's important to any new characters, and to introducing the Refuge to the reader. Its focus is on comfort and support. On creating an atmosphere where any newcomer can feel welcome and safe, and through the community it achieves that. Considering that the Refuge is the epicentre of the book, and the conglomeration of many characters this is a key necessity, and the writing achieves this well.

Each character's story is based on one theme- betrayal. Sometimes the betrayals are childish and superficial, other times mature and cutting deep. I'm guessing each book will have its own theme, so I'm interested to see the range of stories, individual situations and characters that could come from that. Despite the large array of characters in this story, each individual's arc is coherent and the book blends them all together well. 

There is a subtle questioning of what betrayal actually means, and whether anyone is free from guilt or any responsibility. Betrayal is often a multi-pronged affair, and rarely done without reasons. People view the same action from different angles. Can something be a betrayal if you, in turn, betrayed them too? Well, yes, but it becomes a much more complicated matter, but this book does skim the surface of it.

However, every story can be quite dramatic. The reactions of certain characters can be a little over the top at times, which occasionally renders serious scenes funny for all the wrong reasons. Some of the dialogue is corny, and at times reads like a costume drama. For some that may be a pro, but certain exchanges come across a little (dare I say?) 'fanfictiony', but this is only in specific small segments. 

Clearly the author has an interest in London, as we get lovely 'picture postcards' descriptions here and there of certain parts of it. This adds to the slice-of-life feeling, and to the home comfort the book focuses on, with its descriptions of lazy afternoon picnics and watching time pass.

 Essentially this is a feel-good story. Happy endings all round, and a brief set-up for the next book. It's a book you don't have to put much effort into. Some of the dialogue may be corny, but the book deals with some pretty depressing situations- albeit in a pretty light manner. You recognise the wounds, but they have long since stopped bleeding. The aim is closure. Healing and moving on. It focuses on the impact complete strangers can have in aiding that, and the desire for personal connections everyone craves. 

Perfect for fans of light romance, cozy stories and anyone with a love of pasta.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

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