Jae. Ylva Publishing, $9.99, E-Book, ISBN 978-3-95533-735-3 (pdf)
“Your heart knows the way. Run in that direction.” So reads a Rumi quote in a book of Persian poetry presented to protagonist Laleh Samadi by her father. The eight-hundred-year-old wisdom pulses at the center of award-winning author Jae’s first medical romance, Heart Trouble. The story opens on Laleh arriving home from a long day as a waitress in her Aunt Nasrin’s restaurant to discover the heart-stopping reality of an unlocked apartment door. The intruder turns out to be Maman, her loving yet intrusive mother who has just filled Laleh’s frig with adas polo, “a rice, lentils, raisins and cinnamon” delight her daughter loves but doesn’t need. Over-protective, Maman visits to speak of a family friend who is marrying a Persian doctor. Happy and single, Laleh doesn’t fear being, as her mother says, torshideh, a pickled old maid, and she doesn’t want to sit through another family dinner with a man of her parents’ choosing. Before their visit ends, Laleh’s heart palpitates then races…so much so she and Maman wind up in the ER of Griffith Memorial Hospital, where Laleh collapses.
Thus begins the romance between Dr. Hope Finlay, an Emergency Department physician, and Laleh, whose life is saved when Dr. Finlay uses a defibrillator to resuscitate her. But the unexpected happens, a rookie move. Electricity surges, Laleh’s arm jumps, and Dr. Finlay is struck. The beauty of what follows allows the reader to suspend belief and take a mystical plunge with Laleh and Hope into an empathetic adventure. The two women feel one another and are privy to what the other knows. Mysteriously, Laleh becomes a walking medical dictionary, while Hope suddenly understands and speaks Farsi.
A research enthusiast, Jae does an extraordinary job integrating medical terminology and procedure into the storyline. Reading about Laleh’s condition, tachycardia, “an arrhythmia caused by an abnormal electrical circuit” in the heart, is fascinating, and as beguiling as reading about Persian dishes, customs and language.
The German author, who recently translated the novel into her native tongue, masters the skill of creating three-dimensional characters. Both Laleh and Hope have intriguing back story, a cast of fascinating family and friends with whom they interact throughout the novel, and their own demons and hurdles that make them more relatable, more endearing, as the couple falls in love.
I enjoyed Jae’s supporting characters, Jordan and Jill. Jordan, Hope’s surgeon-buddy at the hospital, is sweet, although an incorrigible flirt. Good natured and humorous, she and Hope make for hilarious banter and, most importantly, their interracial friendship is refreshing on the page in light of alarming numbers of Black people brutalized by police in the streets of American cities. I am elated that Jordan will bask in the spotlight of her own story in Jae’s next novel and that her love interest will be “a virtual assistant who works mostly with authors.”
As for Jill, she is Laleh’s bff, an actress, who would cancel an audition if she thought Laleh needed her. I love that Jill forges ahead against MS while facing down the definite probability of life in a wheelchair. Despite such a forecast, the sexy diva bows to love and allows “Crash,” her stuntwoman girlfriend, to love her without hiding who she is nor what she faces. Reading her story in Just Physical, a part of The Hollywood Series, will be a joy for this reviewer.
Set in Los Angeles, this touching narrative reminds readers to follow the heart, even seemingly through trouble, for it is worthy to light the path to love. Although Hope, a loner, came of age in the foster care system after having lost her mother, she finds love where she works, in a place she spends holidays and overtime to avoid forming emotional attachments that seem doomed to fail. Likewise, the heart’s beat, or lack thereof, leads Laleh through endless days in the restaurant, two failed relationships and feelings that she’s not living up to her parents’ standards straight into the arms of a lover, who takes her breath away, and who, ironically, is a doctor, a mate of her parents’ persuasion, if they can accept their daughter’s sexuality.
I appreciated the author’s sense of humor and that of her characters in this well-written page turner.
Reviewed by Claudia Moss, author, blogger, vlogger and content creator (September)