One of the books that made it into the hailstorm of Kindle Unlimited books I blew through in my recent effort to hide from the world was a novel by Kimbra Swain, Bless Your Heart. I hadn’t read any of her work before, and as hypocritical of me as I know it is, I have a hard time reading books with female leads. I’ll get to that later, but for now, I have to admit that I mostly enjoyed my time hanging out with Grace Ann Bryant.
Now, as anyone with an ounce of awareness of Southern culture knows, the phrase Bless your heart can be used to mean anything from an expression of pleasure to a barely veiled threat of painful retribution. Grace uses the phrase very effectively as she navigates her life in a doublewide in Alabama. She’s there because she was exiled by her own people when she was not quite fully an adult fairy, and her father King Oberon did nothing to stop the punishment. She’s got a bit of a chip on her shoulder from that, you could say, and now she lives among humans even though the ruling has been reversed. Grace wants nothing to do with her family or the realm in which she’s royalty. She barely seems to want to have anything to do with her own magic, but she does what she must with a fairly good attitude.
Unfortunately, in order to stay among humans and not be constantly moving, she had to strike a deal with what amounts to the enforcers of the human world: the Sanhedrin. She’s got a few rules to follow: she can’t get romantically entangled with a human. She is required to work with law enforcement when they call upon her. She can’t move too far without permission. That sort of thing. Not that Grace seems to mind too much, and she’s even become reasonably friendly with the enforcer that is assigned to Alabama. So when he brings her a young man and asks her to keep an eye on him while dealing with other things, she does it, grudgingly but without much animosity.
Naturally, that’s when all hell breaks loose. Two brutally murdered children, a tangled love affair she can’t afford to have, a demon, Oberon putting paternal pressure on her to return home… and honestly, that’s just the easy stuff. This story is a murder mystery in an urban fantasy setting, so if you like a little sleuthing in your fantasy, then this is a good bet. I’ve been reading mysteries for most of my life and while I figured a few things out early, I didn’t guess the murderer until almost the official reveal.
Grace herself felt real to me, for the most part. She did what she could because it was the right thing to do. She genuinely liked her neighbors and was truly angry at whoever ‘did that to those kids’ and was determined to find the culprit even after she was herself accused of the crime. The young man she takes under her wing irritated the poop out of me at first, but within a few chapters, I felt like he had relaxed and I actually found I liked him after all.
The only thing I really have to complain about is that by the end of the book Grace, this powerful fairy queen, falls into a habit I find common among female characters: falling all over themselves to make everyone happy, including themselves, regardless of the situation. Because heaven forbid a woman gets justifiably angry, or frustrated, or upset. It is entirely unreasonable to expect a strong person— male or female— to constantly give up on feeling because it will upset someone else. Or, as is the case with a female character at least half the time, refuse to be upset with someone because she’s in love with them and that clearly means that she should never get angry or offended or hurt in any way by their object of affection.
The other side of the coin, unfortunately, tends not to be well-rounded female characters who have reasonable reactions to things, they tend to be unlikeable, selfish harpies, but that’s a different rant for a different day.
On the whole— even with the occasional forays into Typical Female Characterdom scattered through the story— this is a great book, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. It is the beginning of a series, and it seems that there’s lots of fun to be had. And honestly, I kind of want to know what terrible ideas Cletus and Tater have next.
4.9 rutabegas out of 5 on this one.