Hey, everyone! I’m back with another book review and today it’s for Helen Hoang’s 2021 release, The Heart Principle.
About the Book
A woman struggling with burnout learns to embrace the unexpected—and the man she enlists to help her—in this new New York Times bestselling romance by Helen Hoang.
When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.
That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she herself has just started to understand. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves (via Goodreads).
It pains to me say that I didn’t love this since I am such a huge fan of Helen’s previous work…but I really did not love this :/.
I could tell early on that this book was deeply personal to the author, and the author’s note confirmed that. In the author’s note, she even says that it felt more comfortable to write this one in first person rather than third like her previous two books. I also knew going into this one that it would be tonally different from her other works.
But this book didn’t really feel like a romance to me. Maybe I had my expectations set too high for Quan’s story and am just being extra nit-picky, but I didn’t love the way this story played out at all. I was either upset or frustrated while reading this book, and while I’m sure that was intentional, it didn’t feel worth while in the end. Even the sweet moments felt so fleeting.
Honestly I felt like this book was trying to accomplish too many things in one story. It tried to tackle family, romance, tragedy, and identity all in one go. And it doesn’t feel as effortless as it did in the previous installments. The two POVs also didn’t feel balanced at all. Quan’s chapters were so short :-(.
Both Anna and Quan are going though internal and external struggles in this book, but I just didn’t think they were done well here. So much so that the final act of the book felt all over the place and unsatisfying.
I also didn’t like how dragged out the aspect of the open relationship was. I knew it would be in the book from the synopsis, but when I got to the point where Quan gets hurt over it, I couldn’t help but just be angry for him because I didn’t really understand Anna’s motivations. I feel like Quan deserved better than he was given in this story. He’s treated pretty badly in this book, almost like a secondary character instead of the “hero.” Even when he did find his happiness with Anna, I just didn’t believe in their romance like I wanted to.
I really wanted to love this book and it sucks that I didn’t. I’m glad that the story was cathartic for the author and that it’s resonated with others, but it really was not the book for me.
Star scale: ⭐️⭐️ (2 stars)
Grade scale: D-