"Sorry, John Green fans, but McDaniel's been making us cry . . . for decades." --Bustle.com An inspirational story about love, tragedy, heartbreak, and renewal as a young woman deals with her serious health issues, a fractured family life, and the prospect of romantic love while trying to remain focused on her studies and a lifelong dream. Kenzie Caine is enrolled at Vanderbilt University, with the goal of becoming a veterinarian. When she lands a summer job caring for and helping to rehabilitate abused horses at the Bellmeade Estate stables, she is over-the-moon happy. One place she does not want to be is at home with her parents. Since the tragic death of Kenzie's younger sister, her mother has unraveled and her father has lost Kenzie's trust. At the stables, Kenzie is in her element. But a serious heart condition limits her ability to complete the more physical aspects of the job, so her employers have tasked the charming Austin Boyd with helping her. But Austin has secrets. And as Kenzie and Austin become closer, those secrets threaten to harm their relationship, as well as reveal other startling truths. Once again Lurlene McDaniel delivers the type of story for which she is famous--and readers everywhere will be reaching for their tissues.
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What works well in this book is how McDaniel’s sets up the air of mystery around Austin. She doesn’t give him just one secret, but instead leaves room for multiple surprises. By cluing the readers in on this fact from the beginning, she seamlessly injects thriller aspects into an otherwise straightforward romance story. I couldn’t guess Austin’s final twist, but I really like where McDaniel takes his character. In fact, I would have loved to know about him earlier on, because it would have made more sense as to why he needed to keep his distance from Kenzie and it would have heightened the tension between them.
For a lot of the book, the relationship between Kenzie and Austin feels difficult just for the sake of being difficult. Kenzie’s dislike of him from the beginning is a little forced and sometimes their dialogue is stilted. There is also a weird shifting perspective that happens between the two of them at random intervals. A consistent POV would have helped with the pacing and even the suspense.
With that being said, THE GIRL WITH THE BROKEN HEART is completely on brand for McDaniel and will appeal to any of her fans, especially those who have read LOSING GABRIEL or SOMEBODY’S BABY. McDaniel sets her most recent novel back in Windemere, Tennessee, and it’s really fun to see her former characters, Lani, Dawson, and Cole make brief cameos.