Flaming Hearts by Susan Stoker

91IH3laBBFL._SL1500_Title: Flaming Hearts

Series: Beyond Reality #2, but can be read as a standalone

Author: Susan Stoker

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb: Becky and her mom used to watch reality shows together all the time. Her mom passed away before she could see Becky on her very own show…except it’s not her own show. She has to share the limelight with another woman. They’re both competing for the love and attention of the same men. It was like no show Becky had ever seen… and she was miserable. The best thing about the show was trying to irritate the other woman by choosing activities Becky knew she’d hate. Becky had no idea she’d meet a wonderful, protective man while on the show, unfortunately he wasn’t a contestant.

Dean always knew he’d find the one woman meant for him, but he had no idea he’d find her competing on a reality show. He’d have to find a way to make sure she didn’t choose any of the prospects on the show, but would decide to be with him instead. Luckily his brother was a cameraman; it was just the key to get to spend time with Becky, as long as the Director didn’t catch wind of their plans.

Becky can’t believe Dean would be interested in her; after all, she isn’t anything special. For some reason he keeps coming back to see her and wants to talk to her every night on the phone. Their relationship becomes more solid just as Becky’s time on the show becomes more tense. She’s ready to call it quits, but she has a contract.

Dean and Becky are counting the days until the reality show is over and they can spend time together openly when Dean gets called away on a job. When an incident on the show threatens her safety and Dean isn’t around for her to turn to, Becky isn’t sure their relationship can survive. Becky has to figure out a way to trust Dean to help her, and Dean will do whatever it takes for Becky to realize she’s his…forever.

Thoughts: Susan Stoker takes us behind the scenes of reality tv again.  If you didn’t catch my review for the first book in the Reality Hearts series, you should check it out at Outback Hearts Review. While I did thoroughly enjoy the 1st book in this series and recommend it, I don’t think it’s necessary to read book 1 in order to enjoy book 2.

In book 1 Alex (H) and Sam (h) were both on the reality show and that’s not the case in Flaming Hearts.  I really enjoyed how the couple played out in Outback Hearts(OH), so I was disappointed to hear it would be different.  I shouldn’t have worried.  I love how this story played out and I don’t think it would have worked as well if Dean was on the show.  Like OH, this is a dual POV, which I love.  Becky was a normal girl and the show ruined her self confidence.  By the time Dean came into the picture, she couldn’t believe that he was showing interest in her.  She also had to worry about what she was allowed to say and do, because of her contract.  Dean’s worry is making Becky feel secure and keep her safe.  He wants her to know that she isn’t alone and that the show shouldn’t break her.  He comes up with some pretty interesting ways to break the rules secretly too.

Since I loved the concept, the characters, the scenery and writing, I’m sure you’re wondering why this didn’t get an A or A+. Honestly, this is a personal preference.  I know the instalove concept is big right now, but I am not a big fan.  This idea of Dean’s one made me less connected that I was to OH.  I appreciate that neither Dean nor his brother accepted the family story that they would instantly know their one.  I also appreciate that Becky was instantly attracted to Dean, but not instantly in love.  Dean had to pursue her.  In my mind, these made up for the wince-factor of instalove, which I guess was really secret, unrequited instalove.

Since you get a lot of background information from the author’s blurb, I’ll keep my synopsis short and sweet.  Becky finds herself as a star of a dating reality show, but she’s not alone.  There are actually 2 bachelorettes on this program.  Of course, the producer is the same jerk we met in Outback Hearts and, of course, he didn’t learn his lesson about treating people.  Since Becky is the normal person in a sea of internally ugly, but externally beautiful people, she is ostracized or worse.  As the weeks go back and the competition is thicker, the men begin making threats to force Becky to keep them in the competition and the other bachelorette is getting more and more hateful.  Becky feels alone and mistreated.  She has no one that she can talk to.  After a particularly bad double-date where the 2 men and other bachelorette leave Becky to hike alone, Becky gets hurt and ends up meeting Dean.  Dean’s dad always told him that he would know when he met the woman he’s supposed to spend his life with.  Apparently, it’s always been like that in his family.  Running into Becky, he knows instantly.  Unfortunately, Becky is on the show and isn’t allowed contact with the outside world.  Dean’s brother works as a cameraman on the show, so Dean knows exactly how she’s being treated and he’s determined to do something about it.

What happens at the end of the show?  How can they end it with 2 bachelorettes?  Will the mean producers force Becky into bad situations with the contestants?  How will she feel when the whole world sees how badly she’s being treated on the show?  How will Dean feel? When Becky finds herself in a bad situation, how will she handle it?  Who will she turn to?  Can Dean convince Becky to make their relationship work?

You’ll just have to find out by reading Flaming Hearts.

Grade: A-/B+

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