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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A Favorite Romance Debut Full Of My Favorite Tropes: Just A Heartbeat Away by Cara Bastone

JUST A HEARTBEAT AWAY

by Cara Bastone
Series: Forever Yours #1
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Adult
Publisher: Harlequin Books
Publication Date: June 30th 2020
Source: ARC received for review
Star Quotient: ★★★★1/2
Kiss Factor: ✷✷✷✷1/2
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound

Just a Heartbeat Away is one of my favorite romantic debuts of 2020. While I initially picked up the book because of the most adorable puppy on the cover, it quietly managed to sneak up on my heart and ran away with it. I don't know what it is with me and painfully slow-burn romances, but I find myself constantly devouring this trope. In Just a Heartbeat Away, not only is the slow-burn trope penned with a lot of heart, but we are gifted with two additional tropes: single-dad and age-gap. As those are all favorite tropes of mine, you could say that I was in romance heaven while reading this book!

Via and Sebastian's story brought me a lot of happiness and I attributed that to the fact that they were both highly nuanced characters. It's clear from this book that Cara Bastone has a talent for writing characters who are complex and layered. Even the secondary characters felt so realistic to me. Growing up in the foster care system, Via has craved stability in her life. Now her career as a teacher in a Brooklyn school not only has given her the stability she desired but also has become a fulfilling avenue for her to allow her nurturing side to grow. Via was a thoughtful young woman, mature well beyond her years. Despite her tough upbringing, her kindness and empathy towards others was a core part of her personality. It's hard for me to imagine anyone disliking Via's character because of how lovely and positive she was all around.

Sebastian was just as likable of a character as Via. I felt so much for this single dad. He unexpectedly lost his wife and mother to his child and was suddenly overwhelmed with the responsibility of taking care of his young son, Matty. Overpowered by his grief and guilt, he was initially not the greatest father. Kindness in the form of a helpful and gentle nudge by Via, his son's teacher, was what gave him the courage to turn over his entire life to make amends and to become the best father he could be. You could say that Sebastian underwent a lot of growth and it completely warmed my heart to see what a wonderful parent he was to Matty. Their bond was sweet and touching - I had a smile every time we were blessed with a scene of them interacting. What I really loved about Sebastian besides what a terrific father he was was how open he was about his emotions. This was a man who was comfortable crying on-page. It's not something that you see a lot in heroes in romance novels so I admired Cara Bastone for normalizing it in Just a Heartbeat Away.

Via and Sebastian had an immediate connection when they re-ran into each other's paths. However, Via's relationship puts a roadblock on their potential relationship. I sometimes find it frustrating when other people are involved in a romance novel, but it's handled very realistically and thoughtfully here. Via and Sebastian's relationship does not progress until her relationship is firmly over, so there is absolutely no cheating. What we do get is a lovely friendship tinged with some mutual attraction. Though their emotional connection and spark were palpable to both, Sebastian was hesitant to act on his feelings because he was concerned that she was too young for him. It takes him a long time to realize just how perfectly Via fits into his and Matty's life. You have to be patient with their romance and to me, the journey to get the HEA was just as warm and satisfying as the actual HEA. Plus, I'm a complete sucker for mutual pining and the mutual pining in this book is delicious.

There's even more I want to say about this book including the amazing friends that both Via and Sebastian have, but since they are getting their own books, I'll keep my rambly thoughts to those reviews. I hope you'll give Just a Heartbeat Away, a book that I consider to be one of the best romance debuts of the year, a chance. It's wonderful and it will leave your heart so full!

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Hi, everyone! Please give a warm welcome to Cara Bastone. Cara was kind enough to answer some questions for me. I thought this would be a great way for you guys to get to know Cara and her debut romance novel better.

Could you describe JUST A HEARTBEAT AWAY for readers using a song or two?

For Just A Heartbeat Away, I’d say the song Focus by H.E.R. but in the opposite way that the song means? The song is written from the perspective of a person asking her partner to start focusing on her more. She doesn’t need almost anything other than his attention. And focus is something that Seb does really well for Via. In fact, his ability to calmly focus on her is one of the things she ultimately finds irresistible about him. And for a second song… I’d have to say The Truth Untold by BTS. Because, you know, so much yearning. And also, that song talks about not being sure you can really show someone all of yourself while still wanting them to know you. 

One of the first things I noticed about your books were the titles. They are so cute! I'm also a complete sucker for good character names. I especially loved the names of Sebastian (*swoon*) and Serafine. Do you have a process for coming up with titles and names of characters - do they come to you or do you prefer to save it for the end?

There are some times that the names just come out of thin air (Ty, Matty, Crabby), but most times I put a lot of thought and research into the names I choose for my characters. I actually have a baby names book that I often refer to when naming a character. That helps me find names that have certain meanings (Sebastian —venerable) or that originate in certain places. I like to use a mixture of unusual names and common names for my characters because I always find it too unbelievable in Romancelandia when every character has a sexy name.

I loved a lot of elements in JUST A HEARTBEAT AWAY but one of the parts that really touched me was how open Sebastian was with his emotions. In particular, I liked that he was comfortable crying on-page. There is a stigma against men being emotional. Was this a deliberate choice on your part?

Yes. I try very hard to not contribute to toxic masculinity in my writing. I once read a study that talked about how until about age ten, male-identified children and female-identified children cry the same amount, and then social conditioning starts to kick in and male-identified children cry much less. This broke my heart because, to me, this shows that crying is a common human reaction that male-identified people are socially conditioned not to partake in. But it’s such a healthy way to process emotions. Sebastian mentions at one point that he’s always been someone who cries, and that he thinks his son will turn out the same way, but I think that crying might be something that Sebastian explicitly thinks about in terms of parenting. As a single father, I don’t think Sebastian would want to be responsible for limiting the ways in which his son is allowed to show emotion. Part of being a good parent for him would be modeling healthy ways to process life. And that includes crying in front of his son. 

But also, I generally write characters that I, myself, might want to be in a relationship with and men who openly show (and deal with) their emotions are hot. 

Via, your heroine, was very inspiring with how much she had to overcome in her life. I loved her kindness and her passion. If you could somehow give each and every person in the world one of her traits, which one would it be and why? Do you have a fan cast for Via? 

I really loved how calm Via is. She has her own anxieties and fears, of course. But for the most part, when met with adversity, she proceeds in an organized, determined manner. I guess I would give everyone in the world the ability to tap into that calmness if they wanted to. But also, she’s really good at knowing what kind of affection to show to each of the people she loves. She’s playful and firm with Matty, open and funny with Serafine, and steady, flirty, soft with Sebastian. She’s really good at loving people. I actually don’t have a fan cast for Via, but I will say that when I saw the cover of Just a Heartbeat Away, my heart skipped a beat. I thought, wow, that’s her!

If you were to hang out with each of the characters in the book somewhere in NYC, where would you take them? Pictures are welcome! 
  
Honestly, Prospect Park with every single character. They go there a lot in Just A Heartbeat Away (and Can’t Help Falling!). It’s my favorite part of New York City. It’s ginormous, shady, and filled with woods, fields, ponds and creeks. In the summers you can see people fishing, playing baseball, picnicking, selling shaved ice or homemade drinks from coolers. There’s frisbee, kite-flying, sunbathing. In the winter, people ice skate, sled, stroll hand-in-hand. And the best part? It’s free. I don’t mean that from a penny-pinching perspective. I mean that all the best places in NYC are the free ones, in my opinion, because everyone can go! The parks and (public transportation accessible) beaches seem to be true cross-sections of the people who live here.

I loved little Crabby in JUST A HEARTBEAT AWAY and it looks like readers will have the pleasure of meeting another cute puppy in CAN'T HELP FALLING (side note: how adorable is the dog's expression on the cover?) I also read that you have an "almost-goldendoodle" of your own. Can you share a photo of your dog? Which of your characters from JUST A HEARTBEAT AWAY would you choose to dogsit your own puppy and why? 


At my house we refer to Mishi (our dog) as the “accidental poodle.” When he was a puppy he had all this long, golden fur (A Farrah Fawcett hairdo, if you will). But then his fur started to mat, so we took him to get groomed and apparently under that long, golden hair, were white curls. Suddenly, we had a little french poodle on our hands! Either way, he’s the best. If I had to choose a character to dogsit? It would be Matty, of course! Mishi has a lot of energy and having Matty wrestle him for a few hours would be good for his soul. 

Speaking of book covers, what part of the cover, beside the adorable little furball, do you like best?

I really like Seb’s outfit…. for obvious reasons.

Your book had so many amazing tropes that I'm a big sucker for - slow-burn, age-gap, single dad hero. What tropes can we expect in the next book? Are there any other tropes you would like to explore in the future?

Can’t Help Falling is enemies to lovers, a little bit of forced proximity, and… of course… slow burn, because for the most part, that’s what I like writing. Although, I’ve gotta say, I always think it’s funny to refer to my books as slow burn because it’s like, slow compared to what? To other books in the genre? Definitely. But slow compared to real life? In Just a Heartbeat Away, Seb and Via fall in love over the course of one season. To me, that’s lightning speed! I love reading books with insta-love, but for this series, I really wanted to explore all the subtle, intimate moments of what it means to develop feelings for someone. I wanted to document every single butterfly and surreptitious glance. I wanted the moment of oh my gosh this person isn’t just my friend anymore to be a slow fade. If this book were visually represented by colors, it would start at, let’s say, lavender and slowly deepen until at the very last page we’re finally at eggplant. If you hold those two colors next to one another, they are very different, but as you turn page by page, the fade is subtle. 

My last question to wrap up this interview, you have quite a few upcoming titles. Could you share a fun fact about each of them? 

Can’t Help Falling: Socks play a large part in their courtship.

Flirting With Forever: There is some very dorky-hot dancing. 

Call Me Maybe (Audible Original): This one features a cat who sounds like he’s screaming the name “Romeo” when he meows. 

Sweet Talk (Audible Original): She’s a total bad-ass, he’s a total cinnamon roll. 

Talk Flirty to Me (Audible Original): Still writing it! Stay posted!

Thanks very much to Cara for these fun answers and the cute Mishi photo! I hope you guys enjoyed reading her responses just as much as I did.

Let's chat!
Do you enjoy the slow-burn trope? Have you read any books where the hero openly cries?
Let me know in the comments below!