Title: Change of Heart (An Hours of the Night Story)
Author: Liv Rancourt
Length: 70 Pages
Category: Historical, Transgender Romance, F/F
At a Glance: I wanted much more from these characters—not because something was missing but because their story was so affirming that I wasn’t ready for it to end.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Preacher always said New Orleans was a den of sin, so of course Clarabelle had to see for herself…
Momma says a body reaps what they sow, and Clarabelle’s planted the seeds of trouble. The year is 1933, and not much else is growing in the Oklahoma dirt. Clarabelle’s gone and fallen in love with her best friend, so she figures it’s time to go out and see the world.
If she’s lucky, she’ll find the kind of girl who’ll kiss her back.
Clarabelle heads for New Orleans, and that’s where she meets Vaughn. Now, Vaughn’s as pretty as can be, but she’s hiding something. When she gets jumped by a pair of hoodlums, Clarabelle comes to her rescue and accidentally discovers her secret. She has to decide whether Vaughn is really the kind of girl for her, and though Clarabelle started out a dirt-farming Okie, Vaughn teaches her just what it means to be a lady.
Change of Heart is a distant prequel to the other Hours of the Night novels, and can be read as a stand-alone.
Review: Oh my goodness, this lovely little book. Change of Heart is a historical romance that has so many things to like about it I hardly know where to begin. The short medium can make for such a tricky read for me, and has been known to leave a story feeling unfinished or hurried, or sometimes both, but let me assure you that Liv Rancourt has crafted such a tender love story between two sweet and gentle and pure characters that when I reached the end, I wanted much more from them—not because something was missing but because their story was so affirming that I wasn’t ready for it to end.
This story is narrated by Clarabelle, an innocent young woman who, in 1933 Oklahoma, knows she doesn’t fit in there any longer. She made the mistake of revealing her feelings to her best friend, and afterwards, the reality sets in that she will never fit the man-woman-marriage-family mold she would be forced into if she stayed. So, she sets off for New Orleans, a den of temptation and iniquity, the Sodom and Gomorrah of the south, with the hope she can build a life for herself there. NOLA has a personality all her own, and Rancourt gives readers a wee taste of the city as well as keeping things firmly grounded in the time period. The hair, the makeup, the clothes—it all worked together to engage my imagination, and there wasn’t a moment when I was pulled out of the setting.
Vaughn. Oh, Vaughn. I loved her a lot, and the amount of empathy Rancourt engenders in her portrayal is both heart wrenching and perfect. When Clarabelle finds herself attracted to the elegant and beautiful Vaughn, it’s such a poignant and sweet and, ultimately, cautious dance between them, even as Clara discovers that she is far from alone in her desires. The naïve but hopeful young woman who came to New Orleans to spread her wings blossoms under Vaughn’s attention, but, for a woman like Vaughn, there’s more than meets the eye. And more danger for her as well, if her truth is discovered. Vaughn is so comfortable in her femininity and yet is at odds with her body, and I couldn’t help but feel her internal struggle as her attraction to Clara became a physical and emotional expression of her sexuality.
When Vaughn becomes the victim of a hate crime is when this story’s emotional hold on the reader gains traction, and, of course, it causes no small amount of conflict for Clara. I appreciate the way the author never tried to gloss over this struggle nor waved the magic wand of love-conquers-all to make the conflict disappear as a non-issue. There were some real questions here that Clara needed to face, and a conflict she’d never been confronted with before, and while the soul searching doesn’t last too long due to this novella’s length, it was appropriately touched upon.
Readers familiar with Liv Rancourt and Irene Preston’s Hours of the Night series will also recognize Thaddeus Dupont and Leo Killian from that series. Though they play only a side role in the story, they’re significant to Vaughn, and it was great to have that thread of connection between the Thaddeus from then and him now—though, he hasn’t changed much for reasons that are obvious if you know his backstory.
I adored Change of Heart. It’s romantic and touching and I can see myself reading it again for the sheer sweetness of it.
You can buy Change of Heart here: