Defending Hearts by Shannon Stacey: Coming to Grips with Change

Defending Hearts

DEFENDING HEARTS coverBoys of Fall #2
By Shannon Stacey
Narrated by Chandra Skyye
Published by Tantor Media
Oct 27, 2015
Running time 7 hours., 33 minutes
Also available in print by Jove (304 pages

Audiobook provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.


They were the golden boys of fall: Stewart Mills High School’s legendary championship football team. Fourteen years later, they’re back to relive their glory, save the team—and find themselves again . . .

Globetrotting photographer Alex Murphy returns to Stewart Mills for a football fundraiser but stays to document the football team and the town’s changes. Since his project includes photos of the Walker farm, he rents a room there. 

Needing money to save the family farm, Gretchen Walker doesn’t have time to deal with the sexy photographer in her house. After all, Alex is a man with no sense of home, and to her, home is everything. But when she finds herself falling for him, she’ll be forced to decide where her dreams really lie.

Contains mature themes.


My Take Oblong

Aside from poor communications skills the couple in this story is an interesting combination of travel weary and stuck at home, of lost in a profession and lost in a need to belong.

I enjoyed watching Alex, who is more understanding than Gretchen, develop feelings for Gretchen without the idea of developing barriers to each other based on circumstance.  So single-minded as to be blind to the obvious, Gretchen is good at denying herself everything and anything that might make her resolve weaken.

I really liked how Alex was working to come to grips with the nature of his art, and his profession.  I was a little confused about his job as a free-lance journalistic photographer who felt he was competing with people wwith cellphone cameras. In the story he talks a lot about losing his connection to the subject. But, his agent calls to tell him people want to see what he has from a newsworthy situation.  Somehow the cellphone cameras and loss of connection are intertwined.

As a painter, that’s like saying an oil painter competes with an artist using their computer to create; it’s just a different medium.

But, for a journalistic photographer, I guess it may be faster to have someone on site with their cellphone get a sale and a picture before you do.  I don’t personally get the link to being connected to the subject.

I respect that the writer has given the character the sense to pull himself out of the field and regroup, and that he does it with a project he does feel a connection to.

I found it hard to like Gretchen, and recently learned people can still be intelligent but disconnected from the world around their immediate milieu.What I didn’t like was her refusal to look outside her own understanding and knowledge.  She only grudgingly acknowledges that she needs help and that there are simple things she could do to make it easier.

Alex is flexible, but he has to be.  The flexibility he has had to foster has left him feeling rootless. Gretchen is so rooted in her determination to keep the farm, she has lost sight of why she is doing it.

As Alex comes to grip with the changes in his profession, Gretchen also has to come to grips with what keeping the family farm means.  She has this whole thing about it being her family farm, but she isn’t leaving it to anyone, it is essentially taking all her time and money. A lot of people are stuck in situations like this in their lives and they generally think they have time to do it all and then have a family, or they are doing it for a misplaced sense of obligation.  

I liked how Stacey explores this issue and Alex’s career issues.  I did not like the inability both characters have to tell the other how they feel, especially Gretchen. I know that, in Gretchen’s case, it is a symbol of her inability to admit things to herself.

I also like the very hot hook ups that Gretchen and Alex eventually get into, the way they handle Gretchen and Alex being in the same house as her grandmother. Or how they think they handle it.

Alex and Gretchen are both on the cusp of the change moving from one stage of life to the next, taking stock of where they are going and what they want.   Changes are uncomfortable and I think Stacey does well well writing the story about these characters: creating their reality and relationships. I recommend it!


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