Summer is the perfect time to spread out a blanket on the beach and pick up a fluffy, feel-good romance. HEART LAND by Kimberly Stuart is the book you need this summer. Think, Sweet Home Alabama: The Midwest Version. So basically, Sweet Home Iowa. As an Iowan myself, I jumped at the chance to read a book about Iowans, set in Iowa, and written by an Iowan. Go Hawkeyes.
The 411: Grace Klaren has finally made her dream of living in the Big Apple and working in the fashion industry a reality. But when she’s unexpectedly fired and can’t afford the next month’s rent, Grace does something she never thought she’d do: she moves back home.
Back in Silver Creek, Iowa, Grace is determined to hate it. She rails against the quiet of her small town, where everything closes early, where there’s no nightlife, where everyone knows each other. She’s saving her pennies and plotting her return to New York when she almost runs over a man who’s not paying attention at a crosswalk. It turns out to be Tucker, her high school sweetheart whose heart she broke when she left ten years ago. They reconnect, and Grace remembers why she fell for him in the first place.
And her career begins to turn around when she finds a gorgeous but tattered vintage dress at a flea market. She buys it, rips it apart seam by seam, and re-creates it with new fabric, updating the look with some of her own design ideas. She snaps a picture and lists the dress online, and within a day, it sells for nearly $200. Suddenly, Grace has her ticket out of here.
But Grace can’t fight her growing feelings for Tucker. Sometimes when they’re together, Tucker paints a picture of what their future could be like, and it feels so real. And when she finally gains the funding to move her new business back to New York, Grace must decide where home really is—will she chase her long-held New York dream, or find a new dream here in the heartland?
Ok. So I LOVE books that are set in Iowa or have characters from Iowa. But they always seem to follow this kind of narrative: Main Character is made for more than their small town. They move to the Big City where they are finally able to blossom and grow. Personal growth stories are always great to read, but this kind has always left a bad taste in my mouth. What’s wrong with small towns? What’s wrong with staying in your small town? Some people may need to go to the Big City, I’m not denying that. But not everyone does. Some of us can flourish just fine in our small towns. And I’m over-the-moon that HEART LAND doesn’t fall into this type of story.
I think this is also part of the reason why I didn’t find Grace all that relatable for the first few chapters. Her feelings of superiority over her hometown and her classmates who stayed there were upsetting at first. Stuart made me love Grace, her passion, and, ultimately, her love for Silver Creek.
Now can we talk about how dreamy Tucker is?! I’m not gonna lie, in Sweet Home Alabama, I was all for Patrick Dempsey over Josh Lucas (sorry.) In HEART LAND, there’s not really a prominent triangle but Tucker plays the Josh Lucas character and he wins. He just wins.
The faith factor was also an unexpected and not completely unwelcome aspect to HEART LAND. Tucker and Gigi are both devoutly religious, to the point where Grace teases them about praying and church. Grace’s journey back to Christianity and finding faith in her life again is another part of the journey she goes down during her time in Silver Creek. If you’re looking for a Christian book that isn’t preachy, HEART LAND is perfect. And if religion is something you’d rather not read about, it’s a small enough part of the story that you should still be able to read with no problem.
About the Author: Kimberly Stuart has always treasured a good story and a good laugh. When she’s not engrossed in the charming chaos of motherhood, Stuart writes stories that are intended to make readers laugh often and cry once—maybe twice. Kimberly resides in Des Moines, Iowa, with her fantastic husband and their three wily children.
Thank you Atria/Howard Books for including me on this tour and for my galley.