Contemporary Literature

The Queen of Hearts

I really wasn’t planning on reading this one. It sounded cute and fluffy, not bad for the summer honestly, but it just wasn’t something I was overly interested in (despite it’s gorgeous cover). But then I was walking through the library one morning, after a meeting (and I totally was not planning to get any more books because my TBR is completely slammed right now), and saw this on a special display. It was marked as written by an NC author (and takes place in NC)…and I don’t know what came over me, but I just…I picked it up and checked it out. Whoops.

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin

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“I’d be such a better person if I could do it again.”

The Queen of Hearts tells the story of Zadie and Emma, lifelong friends who are now both grown and practicing medicine in Charlotte, NC. They knew everything about each other and have been there for all the most important parts of each other’s lives…or so they think. There is that one year in med school that they just don’t ever talk about. And so far that’s worked out fine for them. But things are about to change with an incoming blast from the past: Nick, a resident during their third year of med school, who played a major part in the drama of that year. And everything they’ve kept secret starts to unravel.

This is such a guilty pleasure type book. A lot of people have compared it to Grey’s Anatomy, which I totally agree with, in regards to the relationship and medical drama. And we all know how successful Grey’s has been, so really that’s a compliment, at least in my opinion. But there is an underlying element to this story that runs a little darker and is reminiscent of, at least for me, Gillian Flynn. Now, it is nowhere near the level of Gone Girl (tbh, the only Flynn I’ve actually read), but it definitely leaned that way more so than Grey’s ever did. The point it, it’s that type of “train wreck is coming and I cannot look away” type book, that you compulsively turn pages in because you need to know what happened/will happen. In that respect, this book was very successful and definitely enjoyable to read. It was written cleanly and smoothly, with fantastic pacing for the type of story it was telling. And you could tell that some of the very specific interactions with patients come from the author’s own experiences, because they are too pointed/unique to be otherwise, which was a fun touch. Plus, it was fun to read about a place I know – recognizing some of the landmarks and neighborhoods does make you feel more connected to the story, as a reader.

On the other hand, there was definitely a few things that I wasn’t so keen on. I normally like a switch of narration between past and present, or among characters, and think that style works especially well in stories like this one. But I got confused a few times while reading this. Zadie and Emma’s voices were just too similar and I found myself not being able to tell a difference between their sections, which made for a not ideal reading experience. Overall, this is a great example of writing what you know, but if you only know one thing, you need to be careful about POV switching like this because they tend to blend. Relatedly, the general relation of life in Charlotte definitely bothered me at a few times. There was a lot of not very subtle name/title dropping and humble bragging and complaining as a cover for showing off (especially about their kids, partner’s jobs and the clubs they’re all a part of) that I feel is typical in a very upper middle class community, like the one that these characters were clearly a part of. It set a very…unnerving…vibe, at least for me. And there were weird moments of unnecessary (and occasionally almost caricatured) details about diversity in some of the non-main-characters in an effort to seem inclusive, while the story more or less is touting how exclusive the lives of these people are. I’m not saying it’s not how things are or anything, but it just came across as a little too un-self-aware that bugged me. Perhaps that was the point and it was supposed to be social commentary, but if that’s the case, the writing did not make that clear enough for me.

All in all, this was not anything particularly spectacular, but it was, for sure, a great summer read. I was sucked into the drama right from the start and sped through it because I just couldn’t put it down. If you are looking for something to read at the beach/pool, that will grab your attention and keep you engaged, but won’t drain your emotions or dampen the relaxing mood, this book would be ideal.

2 thoughts on “The Queen of Hearts

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