Title: Heart & Soul
Author: Shae Connor
Length: 87 Pages
Category: Contemporary, Bisexual Romance
At a Glance: Just a bit more story would have gone a long way to making this a really solid novella, and made these men and their story more memorable overall.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Kellen Grady has known he’s gay since he was a teenager, but he’s never been that interested in dating. A professional pianist, he’s happy spending his days teaching students of all ages and his nights working and playing at an Atlanta bar and concert venue. When former pro football player Terrence Harvey and his brother buy the bar, Kellen’s thrown by the change to his routine, but he develops a quick friendship with Terrence, drawn to his sunny nature and sharp mind. Then their relationship takes a turn when Terrence surprises Kellen with a kiss. The unexpected action, though not unwelcome, leaves Kellen faced with reevaluating everything he thought he knew—about Terrence, and about himself.
Review: I struggled with this review, mainly because the story itself had a nice premise. I enjoyed meeting these two men, I liked them instantly and loved that they both had supportive families that they cared for, and that, in turn, watched out for them as well. But there were a few things that jarred me in the reading of this novella, so much so that I had to take the time to go back and make sure I hadn’t missed the explanation of those same issues. The story is a sweet one—a piano teacher/player who cobbles together a few part time jobs to support his love of teaching; one of those jobs is playing in a three-piece band in a local bar. That same bar has just come under new management, rather abruptly, which throws everyone into a state of questioning what changes will be made to the venue and, for Kellen, how that will affect the musical repertoire of the band.
As the bar slowly reverts to the new owners, Kellen gets to know the two brothers, Terrence and Calvin. But it is Terrence, the former NFL football player, who catches Kellen’s interest the most. However, there is also real hesitance on his part to allow his crush on Terrance to evolve into more, and so, he finds himself backing away from his charismatic boss–which leaves him less than happy, and wondering if he has made the right decision after all.
That hesitance is one of a few things that I felt never really got addressed in this short novella. It was alluded to that Kellen had been burned before, but that was never really built on—his backstory was left, for the most part, unfinished, and that was frustrating when it came to understanding what motivated Kellen’s behavior toward Terrance—in particular, his reluctance to get involved. In fact, during a conversation with his sister, Constance, Kellen states he rarely had any interest in starting something with another man—yet he has had boyfriends. At first I was thinking that the author would reveal that Kellen was perhaps asexual, but no, that never occurred. To add to the confusion, there is an actual scene where he discusses his feelings with his sister, who says there must be a “word for that,” and then goes on to apologize and assure him his feelings are “probably normal, even if it’s not the usual.” That really left me confused. I wasn’t sure what the author was trying to establish there—or if, in fact, it was just an unfinished thought in the novella itself.
From there, there are two revelations about Terrance, the first being his bisexuality, which was glossed over as him being in the closet while playing football–for twenty years. In other words, most of his life, not just during his years in the NFL. And then, the rather shocking secret that his brother, Calvin, ends up explaining to Kellen about Terrance and his family, and which is quickly summarized and brushed aside. It’s treated as something they will deal with down the road, and, honestly, was so huge that for Kellen and Terrance to not discuss it in depth was a bit strange. I wish I could explain more here, but to do so would give away a pretty big spoiler, and that is something I don’t want to do. Suffice it to say that there were some rather jarring plot points that failed to be developed or explained in a way that would keep the story progressing smoothly.
Unfortunately, for me, Heart & Soul had all the makings of a great story, but was allowed to wander a bit and gave up some much needed plot development that would have added greatly to both the story and the understanding of the characters themselves. Just a bit more story would have gone a long way to making this a really solid novella, and made these men and their story more memorable overall.
You can buy Heart & Soul here: