Heart's Desireby Laura Pedersen
Card sharp and former wild child Hallie Palmer is in college now–and Bernard Stockton, her legal guardian, has suddenly appeared during final exams. He’s hysterical about his recent breakup with his longtime boyfriend, Gil, and wants to enlist Hallie in a scheme to win Gil back. So Hallie returns to Cosgrove County, Ohio, for the summer, to her job as live… See more details below
Card sharp and former wild child Hallie Palmer is in college now–and Bernard Stockton, her legal guardian, has suddenly appeared during final exams. He’s hysterical about his recent breakup with his longtime boyfriend, Gil, and wants to enlist Hallie in a scheme to win Gil back. So Hallie returns to Cosgrove County, Ohio, for the summer, to her job as live-in yard person for Bernard and his delightfully oddball mother, Olivia. Also present are Ottavio, Olivia’s hot-tempered Italian lover, who’s desperate for a wedding; Rocky, a chimpanzee who’s one Singapore Sling away from an AA meeting for primates; and Hallie’s own ever-expanding family, which she fled as soon as she could slide down the drainpipe.
Around town, folks assume that since Hallie isn’t in jail, she clearly has no problems of her own and can therefore tackle theirs. But Hallie has plenty of troubles–a looming tuition bill, gambling temptations, and an ex-boyfriend who’s back in town for the summer to upset any potential if highly unlikely (a girl can dream!) romantic flings.
Yet as Hallie and company navigate life’s unexpected paths of games lost and love found, the real truth begins to emerge: With friends, family, and a place to call home, your heart’s desire is always within reach.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
–Sarah Bird, author of The Yokota Officers’ Club
“Smart, funny, and chockful of surprises, Heart’s Desire delivers on the promise of its title. Laura Pedersen’s lively imagination has created a cast of zany characters and an unforgettable heroine, whose honesty, sweet nature, and witticisms make this novel an enchanting read.”
–Bev Marshall, author of Right as Rain and Hot Fudge Sundae Blues
- Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt
Someone cracks open the bedroom door. "Hallie? Are you in there?"
Upon hearing the familiar voice I wake slightly and assume that I'm having weird dreams due to excessive body heat. Lying next to me is my boyfriend, Ray. And on the other side is Vanessa. I push down the blanket.
"Hallie, are you up?" the voice comes again.
Only now I'm definitely hearing and not dreaming Bernard's stage whisper. And also smelling the rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee with a hint of vanilla. Wakefulness and reality strike simultaneously. "Oh my gosh!" I shout, and raise my head off the pillow. "What time is it? I have an exam at eight!"
The only thing that's not surprising is to find Bernard Stockton in the hallway of my apartment. After all, he's the one who'd saved me when I was sliding down the slippery slope of adolescent rebellion the previous fall by taking me on as a live-in yard person. And now at least one weekend a month he arrives early and cooks us all a big brunch. Only this isn't Saturday or Sunday. It's Wednesday of finals week after my first year of college.
Bernard opens the door the rest of the way and steps inside the room. "It's just after seven," he says. But his voice is hesitant and hoarse, like a record being played at the wrong speed, and I can tell immediately that something is terribly wrong. Normally he would be trilling "Rise and shine!" like Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. Not only that, he must have awoken at five in the morning to make the one-hour drive to Cleveland.
"What's the matter--I mean, I'm coming. . . ." I start to climb out from my position as pickle in the middle. "Um, could I meet you in the kitchen?"
"Oh, yes, of course. How indelicate of me." His footsteps become faint and then I hear him tackle the mess of dirty pots and pans in the kitchen.
After stumbling around the minefield of packed duffel bags and piles of dirty clothes for a few minutes I finally find a pair of sweatpants to pull on. No surprise to discover a bunch of unpaid bills and parking tickets scattered beneath them. I'll be lucky if the repo man isn't towing my car away at this very moment.
The whole place smells like old pizza and even older laundry. As I pass the living room the sound of loud snoring comes from behind stacks of books and model cardboard buildings that rise in the middle of the floor to form a miniature skyline. A closer look reveals my roommate Debbie and her boyfriend Daniel asleep on the couch, surrounded by notebooks and empty pizza boxes. It's a memorial to unfinished group projects everywhere.
In the kitchen Bernard has lined up his numerous shopping bags on the floor, since there's no available space on the countertops or table. Those are covered in a collagelike mishmash of art supplies, stained coffee mugs, and overdue book notices. Fortunately, he's accustomed to the mess. With four busy young women sharing three rooms and all the various friends and boyfriends hanging about, housekeeping rarely rises above the minimum required for pest control. Particularly during exam time, when everyone is cramming for finals and working like crazy to finish papers and art projects.
I rub the sleep from my eyes. "What's wrong? Is it Olivia?" Though I'd called Bernard's sixtyish mother the night before to ask her a grammar question for a paper I was writing, or at least attempting to write, and she'd sounded fine.
Bernard stops whipping eggs in the shiny metal mixing bowl he brought from home, bows his head, and shuts his eyes as if in pain.
I stop in my tracks and stare at Bernard, waiting for his answer while growing increasingly worried. For he was, as they said of Odysseus, a man never at a loss. Only in Bernard's case, when faced with adversity he was rarely without a witty remark and an audacious plan, though it was oftentimes one he'd seen in a movie.
Finally Bernard exhales for the entire State of Ohio and says, "It's Gil."
Never before have I seen him so grave when referring to his longtime companion. And so of course I assume the worst. "What? Is he dying?"
Now that my eyes have become accustomed to the light, I notice how completely wrecked the normally dapper Bernard looks--bags under his eyes, worry lines furrowing his brow, and something I've never seen on him before, brown socks with black loafers!
Bernard turns away from me and dabs at his eyes. "I promised myself I wouldn't shed any more tears." He waits a moment to compose himself, takes a deep breath, looks me straight in the eye, and in a trembly voice blurts out, "Gil left me!"
"You broke up?" I'm truly stunned. I'd have voted my parents more likely to break up than Gil and Bernard, and even the thought of that is impossible.
"We didn't break up." Bernard starts sniffing again. "Gil left me!" He switches to French for greater effect. "Abandonnement."
I'm not sure exactly what the difference is between breaking up and one person leaving, but this doesn't appear to be the right moment to ask. Tears begin to stream down Bernard's cheeks. I've never seen him full-out cry like this before, not even when his father died.
As I reach to put my hand on his arm, a hiss comes from the stove and he leaps to adjust the heat on his beloved Calphalon nonstick crepe pan. Then he concentrates on making chocolate crepes and this seems to calm him slightly, to my great relief. Hopefully Bernard is overreacting and he and Gil just had an argument that will eventually be resolved. Perhaps it was about Bernard's antiques taking up the entire garage. In the spring Gil always gets cranky when bucketfuls of pollen land on his car because it has to sit out in the driveway all the time.
"What happened?" I ask. "Did you two have a fight?"
"No. I mean, here Gil is, always insisting that he's the normal one. Then all of a sudden he goes berserk and announces that he doesn't want to be part of a committed relationship. Gil just hasn't been the same since his older brother, Clifton, died unexpectedly last month . . . he became more and more distant and then . . . he said . . . it was over. . . ."
Bernard becomes upset again and uses the dish towel over his shoulder to wipe away his tears. He always brings his own Marshall Field's British icon dish towels when he comes to cook for us.
All of my friends love Bernard. He's like an eccentric uncle who unexpectedly shows up and bakes, helps to decorate, rearranges the furniture, and organizes theme parties. One of my professors had even invited him to guest lecture in a pottery class. Having bought and sold plenty of ceramics for his shop over the past fifteen years, Bernard knows everything about the different schools and designs, and most of all, precisely how much any lump of painted clay you might have lying around your attic is worth. This morning, however, his usual exuberance is nowhere to be found.
Either the noise from us talking or, more likely, the smell of food and vanilla-flavored coffee awakens the couple on the couch in the living room and we hear them carefully making their way toward the kitchen. Design projects in various states of completion are everywhere, transforming the path into an obstacle course.
Bernard says to me, "I can't have anyone seeing me so out of sorts. Now, don't breathe a word to them about this calamity, all right?"
"Mum's the word," I reply. Bernard does indeed have a reputation for inexhaustible zest and witty remarks to protect.
He takes a deep breath, straightens up, and lifts his head high. "I'm channeling Susan Hayward in Valley of the Dolls when, after having her wig ripped off, she announces with great dignity, 'I'll go out the way I came in.' "
"I'm sure that's exactly what nine out of ten therapists would recommend," I agree wholeheartedly with his strategy.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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This is the second installment in this series and I love how the characters draw you into the story. For those of us who are a little older, Hallie's voice brings back all the anxiety and angst inherent in young adulthood. Heart's Desire introduces you to a new set of friends that you become engaged with and begin to care about. You want to go along for the ride with Hallie, Bernard and the rest of the characters. I can't wait for the sequel.
Hallie Palmer is going home for the summer after her first year of college. She hopes to figure out her financials and maybe pick up a boyfriend along the way but like always Hallie seems to be fixing other people before herself and before long finds herself in all kinds of situations. I loved this coming-of-age story and felt that like the first book - Beginner's Luck - I connected with the characters because of how real they were portrayed. Not one of them were perfect, they all had their hang-ups and their flaws and while many authors out there today add in the ups and downs of life for authenticity Laura Pedersen made it feel like a true story wrapped in fiction. I especially liked that throughout the narrative and dialogue I couldn't suppress the bubbles of laughter. It truly was the cherry on top for me.
Heart's Desire is everything readers want in a book! Genuine characters walk through these pages, sharing their lives with honest abandon and a delightful touch of humor. This sequel to Beginner's Luck is every bit as wonderful as the first story. Hallie Palmer, teen poker queen, is living at college, yet her heart is back home with the Stocktons. When Bernard shows up at her dorm, distraught about his breakup with longtime boyfriend, Gil, Hallie returns to Cosgrove County to set things straight. However, that's not all that needs fixing. As soon as Hallie steps back into the offbeat house of Olivia and company, life grabs her hand for a sometimes bumpy, always amazing ride. Laura Pedersen is an incredible author. Not only do these characters leap off the page (I swear I heard them breathing!), but the situations they encounter are real in a wonderfully bizarre sort of way. Hallie and her friends and family will generate a great deal of interest and sympathy from readers. Although some of the issues explored are controversial, this very conservative reviewer found herself totally immersed in the story and rooting for everyone to live happily ever after. Now, that's the sign of a great writer. At the forefront are the complex relationships that progress with a startling amount of candor. Hallie's inner thoughts are shown to readers, causing this young woman to be heartily embraced for her actions and feelings. The entire cast of characters is perfect and fills this novel with an assortment of ideas and subplots, which offer smiles as well as profound wisdom. Heart's Desire is life, with all its faults and fun, wrapped up in family love.
The sequel to BEGINNER'S LUCK (best read in order), this book was a wonderful surprise. Sharp, natural prose that made me think, laugh and feel good. Wide age appeal, probably 13 and up. Mostly women's fiction, however my husband heard me chuckling throughout and enjoyed the novel too. I hesitate to say 'an old-fashioned read' because Pedersen is anything but dated (very fresh!) but there's a wonderful whimsy along with the social commentary, great characters, and relationships, so if you liked 'Fried Green Tomatoes' and 'To Kill A Mockingbird,' this is another winner. I already have my book group committed to reading THE BIG SHUFFLE this winter (next in series, preview at her Website -- laurapedersenbooks). My teenage daughter is threatening to come for that!
Though she would prefer not to work another summer at mother and son Olivia and Bernard Stockton¿s estate garden where she took refuge last year (see BEGINNER¿S LUCK), Hallie Palmer knows she needs the money to offset some of her freshman year debts. So Hallie returns to her Ohio home accepting the same job she held in the past. --- However, she is shocked when a depressed Bernard informs her that his lover Mr. Gil dropped him. He enlists Hallie¿s help to bring Gil to his senses and restart their relationship. At the same time, Hallie sees her high school boyfriend Craig and, though she has a college beau, she remains attracted to him. He feels the same way even reflecting on whether their agreement to see others was realistic as being together feels like the right thing. Is it her HEART¿S DESIRE or just a nostalgic summer love? --- This sequel stars the still whimsical charming former poker champ Hallie, a likable teen still feeling crowded in the Palmer household as the second born with a horde of siblings. The story line beguiles the readers as the older wiser Hallie is helplessly overwhelmed once more with relationships, her own with Craig, and Bernard with Mr. Gil. Fans will appreciate Laura Pederson¿s teen queen who hopefully returns for one more entanglement perhaps as a recent college graduate whose only work is yard work at the Stockton home garden.--- Harriet Klausner