Thirty-six-year-old Grace McAllister never longed for children. But when she meets Victor Hansen, a handsome, charismatic divorced restaurateur who is father to Max and Ava, Grace decides that, for the right man, she could learn to be an excellent part-time stepmom. After all, the kids live with their mother, Kelli. How hard could it be?
At thirteen, Ava Hansen is mature beyond her years. Since her parents’ divorce, she has been taking care of her emotionally unstable mother and her little brother—she pays the bills, does the laundry, and never complains because she loves her mama more than anyone. And while her father’s new girlfriend is nice enough, Ava still holds out hope that her parents will get back together and that they’ll be a family again. But only days after Victor and Grace get engaged, Kelli dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances—and soon, Grace and Ava discover that there was much more to Kelli’s life than either ever knew.
Narrated by Grace and Ava in the present with flashbacks into Kelli’s troubled past, Heart Like Mine is a poignant, hopeful portrait of womanhood, love, and the challenges and joys of family life.
When Hatvany (Best Kept Secret) first introduces readers to Grace McAllister, the thirty-six-year old feels content that children have never been a part of her life. When she meets Victor Hansen, a divorced father of two, she decides to give him a chance, with the knowledge that his custody is limited to alternate weekends. Shortly after he proposes, though, Grace is unexpectedly thrust into the role of full-time stepmother when Victor's ex-wife dies of a heart attack. With Victor running a busy restaurant, Grace assumes the difficult job of managing seven-year-old Max and Ava, 13. If that weren't difficult enough, Ava becomes determined to learn everything she can about her mother, a task made more complicated by Victor's unwillingness to discuss his ex-wife. Grace generously explores memories and old photo albums with the children, but what Ava discovers on her own roils this fragile arrangement as the incipient family unit tries to start a new life. Hatvany maintains a difficult balance between compelling and saccharine prose, and readers will appreciate the effort. Forced into a tough position, Grace is an easy protagonist to root for, at times overshadowing the broadly drawn, less relatable Victor. Look beyond the more melodramatic aspects and there's a lot to like.