Review: Heartstrings and Diamond Rings by Jane Graves

Heartstrings and Diamond RingsHeartstrings and Diamond Rings by Jane Graves
Contemporary Romance
September 27, 2011

Reviewed by May

Favorite Quote: “As God is my witness, the man wants nothing to do with penises, his or anyone else’s, ever again. See he told me he’s always felt that penises were very threatening. Even his own. Every time he get an erection-“

“Alison!” Brandon said “You want to spare me here? Just a little?”

“Hey, all you have to do is hear about it. I had to live through it.”


Alison Carter works in marketing for a candy company, and is a bit overweight and very self-conscious about it. Her dating history is a mess, and all she really wants from life is to find a good man and raise a family. She is sweet, never slutty, and has three cats living with her in her small place where she collects antique furniture that will be perfect for the home she someday will share with her true love.

Brandon Scott has inherited his grandmother’s matchmaking business and has decided to use it to make enough money to invest in a huge real estate deal that, despite current economic conditions, guarantees him hundreds of thousands of dollars in return. His first client? Alison Carter – whom he can tell right away has a subscription to a bridal magazine and has “good girl” stamped all over her. He figures it can’t be that hard to find a good match for this girl, and he becomes even more determined to help her as she helps him re-brand his company to make it the success she’s sure it can be.

What she doesn’t know – is that the minute he makes enough money he plans to bolt. That he does not care about the company nor does he see a future there for himself. As the story goes on these two end up spending time together as some of the set ups he sends Alison on backfire, and she wonders if the man for her is the one standing right in front of her….

The first thing I need to say is that I heard a lot of good response to this book on twitter. In fact, the entire time I read it I kept reminding myself of that, hoping for something great to happen. Instead I found a book that felt far more women’s fiction than romance and one that I kept checking the page count to see how much longer it was going to take to be done with it.

My biggest issue was the main characters themselves. Two bigger clichés there could not have been. She’s a woman who’s biological clock is screaming and is just full of love wanting to be given to a good man. She had no hobbies or interests outside old houses and antiques and finding her man. It felt like she just killed time waiting for a man to come along – going so far as to refuse to buy a house because she wants to wait for her man so they can do it together. I found it very hard to root for this girl – I really just wanted to smack her instead.

“Do you know I’ve never been in love before?” she said, her voice hushed. “All these years… all the men I’ve dated… not once.”

He just stood there, no clue what to say to that.

“I thought I was a couple of times,” she went on “But looking back now, I know I wasn’t.” She paused. “And then I met you. That’s how I knew. Because it had never felt like this.”

His thought to this, of course, is that he must run away now because he’s never going to stick around. (and FYI: this scene is 26pgs from the END of the story) Yes, on the other side we have Brandon who had a rough childhood, has never been in a relationship, and doesn’t want one either. He has a conversation with his awful father at one point, but then that is dropped too. Essentially – this is a man with no family, who hasn’t acknowledged having any real family in a very long time, if ever. He seemed like a nice enough guy – but I had a rough time buying his sudden transformation at the last possible minute. I couldn’t believe that suddenly at the very end he wants a family and children with Alison, which I assume he’d have to as he knows that is her entire life goal.

In my reading of this story I felt like I was being overly critical, of what was while vanilla and a bit dull, a perfectly lovely contemporary novel with romantic elements, of which there are far too few. It bothered me that she was being set up by the hero and dating right up until the end, that she was dating another man (though not having sex with him) until the hour she hooked up with the hero! That her four bad dates were the best and funniest scenes in the book seemed off – shouldn’t scenes with her true love been stronger?

I did appreciated the gradual build of their relationship, and I liked the few physical scenes we were given as well – I could definitely buy that this couple genuinely liked each other and had chemistry.

“Oh for God’s sake!” Brandon grabbed her arm and yanked her up next to him. He dropped his mouth against hers, pulling her right up against that big, expansive naked chest and kissing her until she nearly fainted in his arms. It was a hot, reckless kiss that thoroughly invaded her personal space and would have sent any human resources director on the planet into a frenzy. Finally he released her, but every nerve in her body was still sizzling like raindrops on a summer sidewalk.

As I write this review I find myself conflicted! In looking at my specific quotes, my favorite bits, it seems a whole lot better than it was reading it for the first time. Indeed there is a lot to like throughout the book. My thought is that had it been shortened considerably from this 400 page version, it would have been a snappy read that I would have enjoyed a lot more.

The very best thing about this story was the secondary characters – I loved them all from her dad to the best friends. In fact, Brandon matched a hulking brute of a man who is a sweetheart but tends to scare ladies off with his tough looks with his neighbor. She’s lovely and in her mid-twenties but due to an accident at work she is both blind and her eyes have scarring. Both want to hope for love, both worry about taking the risk and opening themselves up again. Now those characters, that romance, I would have enjoyed reading lots more of! In their few scenes I was far more intrigued by that potential love match.

Instead, it was back to the cat lady vs the confirmed bachelor.

I liked this author’s style of writing and I felt like while I was bored and really didn’t like the main characters there was definitely enough to like about the book to rank it better than average in its genre.

Grade: B

Recent Reviews:
Dear Author – B
The Brazen Bookworm – C
Book Binge – 4.5/5

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  1. Helyce says

    Hi May. Great review. Sounds like a nice light contemporary. I like when there are secondary characters that stand out-it’s not good,though, when you look forward to reading their tidbits more than the main couple. I’ve read a few of those recently. I also like that Allison is not the model perfect heroine-she seems more “real”.

  2. says

    I was somewhat bored with her last release, Black Ties and Lullabies and therefore did not pick this one up for review. I think the author’s style is a little to fluffy and one-dimensional for my taste. Nice review May.

  3. says

    I read your Twitter posts while reading this book, and I know this is not for me.If I read contemporary, it has to be: a suspenseful or b. really funny, or c. from one of my beloved authors.

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