‘The Heart Principle’ – Helen Hoang

Due for publication in August 2021, I’m very grateful to NetGalley for letting me read this before publication. I’ve enjoyed the previous two books in the series, but this one touched me in ways I wasn’t expecting. It felt honest, painfully so at times, but it was such a tender read that I found myself desperate to see how things worked out.

Our focus this time round is Quan, who we already know from the previous books, and his romance with violinist Anna.

Anna is a woman who sets herself high standards. She feels pressure to behave a certain way and her usual coping mechanisms are not working. Close to burnout it’s hard to imagine being at a lower point. But then her boyfriend suggests they take a break from each other and start an open relationship to help them figure out whether they’re really suited to one another. Perhaps it’s the way we’re encouraged to respond to him, but this just felt like a way for him to sow his wild oats without losing Anna. He never imagines she might be the one to move on.

When the open relationship thing is first introduced, she doesn’t know how to react. Her friends’ righteous indignation is just what was needed…setting things up perfectly for her to meet Quan.

Of course we want them to work out, and their relationship definitely ticks the boxes, but what I really loved about this was the way the pair of them together talked, shared their vulnerabilities and worked on ways to resolve problems.

Quan is invaluable support for Anna as she comes to terms with her late diagnosis of autism, and how she manages the expectations of others while working out the implications for herself. At the same time, Anna is having to cope with the demands of caring for her father and how these new responsibilities affect her and her family.

As I said, there’s a lot to digest here. Some issues are resolved, while others are not. Though there’s so much going on in this story it never felt cluttered or disorganised. Each strand combined perfectly to create a story that I defy people not to fall in love with.