***Trigger Warning: Book Contains Depiction(s) of Sexual Assault/Rape***
Love can be a harrowing experience, one that is further complicated when multiple players are introduced.
When Hearts Are Involved, Phabian Mitchell’s debut novel, posits a question few gay men dare to imagine: What do we do when we have it all, and it still isn’t enough? The answer that will surprise no one? Fuckery.
“Adonis Hill is one of Atlanta’s black, young, and formidable defense attorneys. He is engaged to, Sidnee, a high society socialite whose grandfather just so happens to be his boss at the law firm. He has it all; a wonderful family, an exciting career, and a beautiful fiancé.
That’s not enough. He strikes up a hot and steamy sexual relationship with a young, black man trying to find his way in the world. As the affair grows more serious, Adonis must decide if he’s willing to risk it all and live in the truth he wants to deny or be bound to keeping up appearances. Love, sex, lies, domestic violence, and mental illness takes you on an exciting ride in this short novel.”
Every Character Gets a Moment to Shine
When Hearts Are Involved excels when it focuses on each character’s unique point of view. For example, I enjoyed secondary character Allegra’s chapter, even though she had little to do with the main narrative.
I was also pleasantly surprised to see most of these characters’ point of view chapters converge towards the end. It meant I had a reason to get invested in their individual arcs instead of just skimming through them.
The Plot is Solid, Even When Pacing Gets in the Way
When Hearts Are Involved works best when it gets out of the way of its characters and allows for more organic plot developments. Since we had so many characters featured, I would have liked to see these arcs expanded. There were also a few plot points that I felt needed more build-up.
For instance, there’s a sexual assault scene midway through the book. Now, don’t get me wrong. Sexual assault is often abrupt, not something that’s easily forecast over a period of time.
Still, for the individual who committed the act, it was a major character shift. I could still piece together how and why he got to that place (because I think I’m Oprah anyway), but I feel like we needed a bit more character foreshadowing.
The Formatting Can Be Distracting at Times
Spelling, thankfully, wasn’t an issue with this story, though the book could stand to be reviewed by a skilled editor. There were quite a few instances where I was distracted by disjointed sentence structure and random commas.
An example: “Has that white hoe been hitting on you?” , I asked him in concern. (I love Allegra. Give her a spin-off PLEASE). The misplaced comma may seem innocuous and nitpicky on my part, but there were quite a few instances like this throughout the novel. It became a little excessive and took me out of the story a few times.
Overall, There’s Plenty of Potential
Nevertheless, When Hearts Are Involved ultimately does what it sets out to do: entertain you and leave you wanting more. The final product is a diamond in the rough, but it’s still enjoyable. I hope Phabian continues to grace us with more appearances from Adonis and the rest of the cast (okay mostly Allegra). Love is, after all, a harrowing experience, and I believe it needs a sequel.