A Paul B Review: A Heart for Robbie by J.P. Barnaby

Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

A Heart for Robbie coverCelebrated gay author Julian Holmes writes young adult books where his heroes face demons, spirits and other things that go bump in the night. Those are nothing compared to the problems he faces when his newborn son Robbie is diagnosed with a serious heart defect. Julian must now navigate the health system for a possible cure for his son. When he meets Simon Phelps, the hospital insurance coordinator, Julian might find someone who will help complete his new family. But this new relationship could possible hurt as much as help Robbie in his fight for life.

During the delivery of his son by surrogate and best friend Erin, Julian Holmes is worried when his son does not immediately cry after his birth. The doctors rush the child to the NCIU and arrange for transport to St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital in downtown Chicago for more exams. Once there, the doctors diagnose Robbie with a serious heart defect that will only be corrected with a heart transplant. Without it, Julian would lose his son around his first birthday.

At St. Mary’s, Julian meets the hospital transplant team, which includes doctors, social workers, psychologist and Simon Phelps, the insurance coordinator. Whereas Julian is out and proud, Simon is deep in the closet. He is afraid of the reaction from his deeply religious mother and the youth center where he volunteers. He agrees to have dinner with his parents and potential dates that his mother has set up for him from her church.

After taking Robbie back to the hospital, Julian runs into Simon in the cafeteria. As they talk about what has happened in the last couple of months, Simon asks Julian what if it was scary to be out. Julian answer sometimes but Robbie’s health problems are actually scarier. After lunch, Simon receives and email from Julian what it is like to be deep in the closet.

Later, Julian takes Robbie in for a test. When Robbie codes, Julian is a wreck. Once Robbie is stabilized, Simon offers to take Julian to get something to eat and then drive him home. At the restaurant, Julian has a bit to drink to help drown his sorrows. Simon offers Julian a place to crash for the night. While there, their passion for each other takes over and they enjoy a night of love making. In the morning, they decide to try to pursue a relationship but keep it quiet as it would be against hospital regulations for Simon to be involved with a patient’s father.

As Simon grows closer to Julian and Robbie, he finds himself spending more and more time with them. A couple of months after the start of their relationship, Robbie is having trouble breathing and is rushed by ambulance to the hospital. The next day, as Simon is comforting Julian in a conference room, the head of the transplant team catches them, resulting in Simon’s dismissal and threatening to take Robbie off the transplant list. The two manage to convince the doctor to leave Robbie on the list while the state auditor conducts an investigation to see if anything illegal had occurred.

After that incident, a gay newspaper finds out about the relationship. The youth center asks Simon not to come back. As the information is about to get out to the mainstream press soon, Simon decides to tell his parents about himself. As expected, his mother does not take it well but his father is tired of losing his children due to her actions and tells Simon that he will work on his mother. Julian provides support for Simon during this time. Simon decides that he has his family, whether or not his parents are part of it or not.

Just shy of Robbie turning five months, Julian gets the call that a heart is available. As he informs his family, Julian is glad that Simon no longer has to hide his support for him. While the operation runs longer than expected, all appears to be fine. When some post operational complications show up, Julian wonders if it was all worth the effort. With a change in medicine, the doctors inform Julian that the prognosis is good for Robbie.

J.P. Barnaby has crafted a great novel with A Heart for Robbie. It starts with a prologue which is a passage from one of Julian’s books. This serves as an introduction to Liam and Clay, the heroes of the “Black Heart” series. These characters appear throughout A Heart for Robbie as manifestations of Julian’s hopes and fears. As Julian’s relationship with Simon grows, his need to consult with his characters lessens.

While I was a little disappointed that Julian and Simon’s first night together was brought about by a night out drinking, it was totally understandable. Julian needed to let go of his worries for a night and thus his night of drinking. The way the relationship was built was well done. I could feel Simon, who never thought about children of his own, fall in love with Robbie and his father. The fact that they had to keep the relationship quiet due to Simon’s work and being in the closet was understandable. The actions the two took during this time made sense.

The cover art by AngstyG might seem strange for a gay romance novel but was well done in the context of the story. The big teddy bear (Julian) holding the injured teddy bear (Robbie) just tugs at your heartstrings. The injured teddy bear in fact makes an appearance in the story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press ebook  Paperback       All Romance ebooks (ARe)   Amazon    A Heart for Robbie

Book Details:

Ebook, 216 pages
Published July 10, 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN: 978-1-63216-067-6
Edition language English

By Scattered Thoughts

At over 50, I am ruled by my terriers, my gardens, and my projects. A knack for grubbing about in the woods, making mud pies, and tending to the injured worms, bugs, and occasional bird and turtle growing up eventually led me to working for the Parks. I was a park Naturalist for over 20 years, and observing Nature and her cycles still occupy my hours. From the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the Spring to the first call of the Snow Geese heading south in the Fall, I am entranced by the seasons. For more about me see my bio on my blog.


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