Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Amateur photographer Josh Thornton is out but not so proud. He’s estranged from his family, his boyfriend dumped him, and his job at an estate agency is in jeopardy—especially after he crashes his boss’s car in the middle of nowhere on his way to Hartley Manor.
Callum Black works at the English country estate and lives there in an isolated cottage. Left mute by a childhood accident, he’s more comfortable in the company of animals than people. But when Josh—literally—crashes into his life with his camera and his friendship, Callum realizes his peaceful solitude has been more than a little lonely.
Josh’s affection for Callum deepens even as he’s consumed by doubts over Callum’s sexuality and whether Callum could ever love him. And Callum is haunted by the secret that stole his voice—a secret that keeps him tethered to Hartley Manor. When the past comes hurtling painfully back into the present, Josh and Callum have to overcome their fears and breathe life back into their dormant hearts in order to have a chance at their own picture-perfect future.
What a beautiful story. Just as the cover is a feast for the eyes, one where you need to linger to appreciate all the details, Dormant Heart is a novel that unfolds with the pace and depth of a walk in the woods. Its one in which each move forward should be treasured. Stop look around, admire the beauty of the narrative moment that the author is creating in words and scenes before going forward again.
The story is told from two perspectives, the first from Joshua’s, from the moment he is thrown, horribly, from his parents home to two years later when he meets Callum. He’s funny, brave, enduring, a bit prickly and he’s feels fresh to me, loaded with his camera and a need to press forward with his life. Blow after blow, and I mean fists in one case however briefly, to crushed bumpers, Joshua’s inner stamina makes him get up and persevere. Joshua’s character is one that’s so easy to connect with because his voice is one that bubbles like a spring of hope around him, where with others that would have drained away.
Halfway through the story, Callum takes over, a device that might have derailed another novel but works here. Why? Primarily because Callum never speaks and here, inside his head he finally does. We get to hear that voice no one else has heard since he was a young boy. We hear his thoughts on Joshua, his appearance in his life, and what that interruption has meant to Callum emotionally and sexually. Joshua is the wind blowing through Callum’s life and the effects are immediate and yet so natural as though Callum has been waiting for him. Callum is calm on the surface, and nightmares from a childhood injury that has taken his memory just underneath the calm. There is so much to this character and Swift peals back the layers slowly, unfolding clues and letting us see Callum only after much effect and love.
Callum is the quiet, the observer to the constant motion of Joshua and together they make an impressive whole. One slows the other down, and one speeds the other up. Harmony achieved in pairing and novel. So do the characters that Lane Swift surrounds them with, especially the appealing Heather, daughter of the Lord of Hartley Manor and the sad, faded lord himself.
Yes, Joshua is the key to the memories return. Those memories. So shocking from a child’s standpoint and so damaging. I think that’s where Lane Swift made her best decisions. It was in keeping with realistic possibilities and repercussions on all involved. Just a great job. So why not a perfect score?
The ending…I think I wanted just a little more resolution or pages to finally draw it out for me. And it felt a little rushed in comparison to the flow of the rest of the story. It was so close.
Lane Swift has written a gorgeous book in Dormant Heart, its one that awakened this reader’s heart for the story and characters and a certain glade with a mother fox and her kits still roam. Love contemporary romance, and characters that speak to you? A story that will hold your attention as well as your heartstrings? Look no further than Dormant Heart by Lane Swift. I highly recommend it.
Cover art by Anna Sikorska is one of my favorite covers of the year. Gorgeous, sumptuous even, in content and color. Perfection in every way for the character and story.