Review: Hartstrings: A Jaded Regret Novel by L.L. Collins

heartstringsReviewed by Joanna

This is the third in the Jaded Regret rock band series and the turn of bassist Tanner Hart to tell his tale. Our hero’s a player who has social media pages dedicated (by his fans) to his dick, and who frequently engages in his version of PDA, called PDF. You can work that out by yourselves.

We know from the previous book that Natalie, the band’s manager, has an unrequited thing for Tanner and we open the novel with the two of them nearly getting it on. Tanner is heading to Natalie’s hotel room after a drunken evening together but he gets the door number wrong and as he pauses outside the wrong room, he overhears a violent argument. He can’t walk away and inside finds a broken and bleeding girl being whaled on by her asshole boyfriend.

Now Tanner sees red – literally and figuratively. He grew up in a home with severe domestic violence and it destroyed everything he knew. His response to seeing Mackenzie in the state she’s in is visceral. He beats up the boyfriend, takes the girl back to his room and cleans her up. But by the next morning she’s upped and gone.

Tanner has a tour to perform but he can’t get the girl out of his head. He becomes obsessed with making sure she’s okay and sets his security to find her.

Now at this point I’m worried that we’re going to go all love triangly. Tanner is crazy attracted to Natalie and has been for years but thinks she’s too good for him, and he’s also now attracted to Mackenzie, though probably not for the right reasons. I didn’t feel altogether comfortable with how this book was kicking off and wanted my heroine resolved.

No spoiler – this is dual perspective and the woman in the frame is Mackenzie. It says so on the cover. I didn’t read that first.

I found Mackenzie to be a rather strange character and didn’t like her much at all. She’s intelligent, professional and attractive but entirely walked over by the men in her life. Predominantly by the violent boyfriend but also her father and to some degree, Tanner (though he’s a good guy). She’s a private detective, following in her father’s footsteps, and alongside developing a long distance friendship with Tanner once he finds her again, she also starts investigating something in his past for him. She doesn’t want his help with the boyfriend but she does want a friend and so they help each other.

I had so many problems with Mac and I wish I didn’t. I hated her decisions but then abused women do make terrible decisions when suffering at the hands of the men who claim to love them. But I just couldn’t get a read on her at all. She was entirely passive as well as contradictory.

Andrew, the boyfriend, is the worst. But Mackenzie is jealous over him, pissed off that he hadn’t agreed to them getting married or having kids yet and she finds him sexually attractive. Remember this is internal dialogue so how she genuinely thinks, not what she’s telling others.

So I assumed like many abused women she’s segmented off the violent asshole part from the part she loves. But then in that case I’d expect her to sing his praises sometimes but this doesn’t happen. She says he was the only one who will love her and she doesn’t deserve better, but she never says how handsome or clever he is, or all the great things he does.

My alternative thinking is that she’s been in the relationship so long, she just can’t get it together to leave. It’s habitual. Well then I’d expect her to break away from him as soon as her habit was broken. I.e. When Tanner took her away from the situation.  But she goes straight back.

When eventually she does make the break there’s still a fair amount of wondering if she’d go back to him. Why? I ended up thinking she was an idiot and I didn’t like feeling like that.

The book got better at the end (though this band has the crappiest security ever) and I eventually felt more for the couple and became a bit invested in them.

Overall, I don’t rate this novel as much as I did the previous two. In book one I had issues with Johnny but they resolved and I loved Bex so that was cool. In book two I adored Beau but his lady was passive and wet and annoyed me in similar way to Mac. But the story was stronger than this book and Beau. Just Beau.

If you read this as standalone, which is possible, you might have a different take. You may not be so bought in to the Natalie as heroine expectation and I’d be really interested to know if you had similar frustrations with Mackenzie.

Rating: C+ (based on my enjoyment only as writing quality is high)

Warning for those affected by pregnancy loss –  In this novel, violence leads to the loss of an early-term pregnancy. It’s not graphic except for the violence but it happens and it’s not nice.

Click to purchase: Amazon

Hartstrings: A Jaded Regret Novel
by L.L. Collins
Release Date: June 16, 2016

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