Late one night Nicki Johnson plays with emotional fire and Googles her high school love, only to find his name splashed across the British gossip columns. Back in his native England, Adam Kincaid is successful and dating a woman from an aristocratic family like his own. With a career in politics, Nicki’s no slouch, but she knows Adam is living a world away from her life.
“No British literature. Isn’t this supposed to be an English class?” Adam asked.
“Uh.” My ancestors would’ve been proud of the jolt of American patriotism that hit me. “There was a revolution two hundred years ago. We write our own books now.”
He leaned back in his seat with a smile. “I think I heard about that.”
“We still share the same language.”
“Sometimes I’m not too sure.”
“I bet not.” I could imagine what he thought of a Texas accent.
He picked up the list of books again. “What about Catcher in the Rye?”
“I read it a long time ago when I was, like, eleven.” I laughed a little as I remembered how I’d first come to read it.
“Is there something funny about that?”
“Yeah. My father had suggested I read it then. The book is the classic coming-of-age story. Clearly, he wasn’t really thinking about whether or not it was appropriate for an eleven-year-old.”
“Well, for one thing, the main character is a guy who swears a lot.”
“I suppose I swear a lot.” He cracked a sly smile. “At least compared to you Yankees.”
“Yankees? You’re in the South.” I laughed.
“What else is inappropriate about the book? Now I’m interested. It can’t only be a few swear words.”
“No, it’s not just that. It’s…” I hesitated for a moment as I realized I was about to bring up the topic of sex with Adam Kincaid. What the hell, I thought. I should be matter-of-fact about it. He had a girlfriend and would never want anything with me. I could hide I thought he was hot, so I shrugged. “Holden, the main character…he’s a little sexually frustrated.”
His eyes twinkled, and it felt as if my words hung in the air. I wanted to squirm in my seat. ‘Sexually frustrated’—like me checking out Adam Kincaid.
His proper upbringing showed again as he sidestepped the issue, yet he smirked. “That sounds like an adventurous book to be on an American high school syllabus.”
“Like I said—it’s considered an American classic.” I laughed. “I guess some things are sacred.”
“But of course.” The gleam appeared in his eye again, and he turned toward me in his seat. “Teenage sexual frustration is sort of a rite of passage, if you will.”
There went the good-English-boy manners out the window. His tone, the look in his eye, his body language—was he flirting with or taunting me? I decided the former was impossible, and if the latter, I wasn’t going to back down. With two parents who were lawyers, debate was a family routine.
“A rite of passage? More like a biological fact, isn’t it?” I asked, casually clicking my pen. I raised a brow. “Especially for guys.”
“You’re right about that,” he said with a grin.
As some of you may already know, I choose not to read the synopsis of the books that I review prior to reading them…for me, it just seems to enhance my overall enjoyment of the book, because it allows me to begin a new adventure without any preconceived notions as to what I may expect along the way… The reason why I mention this again with this particular book is due to a commonality I find myself sharing with others that did read the synopsis of “Beside Your Heart” and expressed similar opinions in their reviews. Let me explain… while there is no question to the obvious importance of the backstory for the love between the two main characters, you get the impression from both the synopsis and the first couple of chapters, that perhaps two or three chapters will be devoted to a high school crush that seemed to burn with intensity but then was dimmed by time and distance. Alas, this was not the case…actually; it was completely contrary to how “Beside Your Heart” was written. I can understand how some readers may feel disappointed in this, but allow me to offer a different view point…Initially, I was a bit surprised when the entire book, save the last few chapters, devoted such detail to the discovery and growth of the relationship between high school teenagers, Nicki and Adam. However, after further contemplation, when I read that last sentence, I realized, I didn’t just think about Nicki and Adam like typical characters from a book, I felt like they were people I had gone to high school with, in fact, I may have to stop myself from looking for them at my next reunion. You have to realize that the amount of depth and layers needed to create these characters, is truly impossibly to achieve that level realism in a mere 2 or 3 chapters; I’m actually amazed Mary Whitney was able to do this in just a single book. “Beside Your Heart” brilliantly showcases Mary’s talents and sets the stage for the continuation of Nicki and Adam’s love story… But, before you know where they’re going; let Mary take you back to where it started…
The story begins with a young woman, Nicki Johnson, in her early twenties, as she is working late with administrative support on a political campaign; Nicki’s memories start to drift back to her first true love, Adam Kincaid. Nicki meets Adam at the start of a new school year, after a devastating car accident takes the life of her little sister Lauren, and leaves her and her Mother emotionally and physically scarred. Adam Kincaid and his family are from England and are only temporary in Texas while his Father, a famous geologist, is consulting for an oil company. Nicki and Adam’s relationship evolves from friendship to something more as Nicki explores the depth of her grief over the death of her sister and finds comfort in the time she spends with Adam. It was refreshing to see the slow development of the relationship between Nicki and Adam, and as simple as it may sound, I can think of no other word to describe it, other than just sweet and relaxed. The true strength of “Beside Your Heart” lies in the depth and complexity of Nicki and Adam themselves; the growth and substance that Mary Whitney was able to create with these characters is absolutely amazing. I eagerly await the next step in their journey. ~ Kathy