If you love addictive rom-coms with two swoon worthy love interests, Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins is the book for you. I have a weakness for both Jane Austen retellings and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, so when I heard about this book (which is a Mansfield Park retelling), I just had to pick it up.
This book delivers on what it promises: a fun, cute romantic adventure, with some substance underneath the levity. It opens with Edie Price, 17 years old, driving to a new life. Her mother died just a few years before, and after some time in foster care, she’s going to spend her last few months until adulthood living with her rich aunt and uncle. Edie and her aunt have a strained relationship — her aunt has “a talent for improving people,” and is clearly only taking Edie in as a charity case. Right after Edie’s arrival, they throw a party so they can show Edie off, signalling to their neighbors how incredibly generous they are. Edie chaffs against both her family’s charity and the wealth that surrounds her, preferring her own ratty clothes to the expensive ones they try to lavish on her.
I personally thought Edie was a good character, even though I didn’t agree with all of her choices throughout the book. She starts off clear and driven, determined to forget about boys and focus on earning money and scholarships to pay for college. She’s heartbroken, still trying to recover from the loss of her mother and the more recent loss of her best friend, who she betrayed by kissing said friend’s boyfriend, so she struggles not only with loss but with guilt as well. She’s believable and completely likable while still being far from perfect.
Enter Sebastian, her childhood crush who lives next door. He’s sweet, sincere, and he loves books, just like Edie. When she’s talking to him, she feels like someone finally understands her, really gets her. Except… he already has a girlfriend, Claire, who also happens to be the most popular and most beautiful girl at school. Edie can sense that they aren’t a good match, but she doesn’t dare to hope that Sebastian has feelings for her too.
Enter Henry, the town bad boy… and Claire’s brother. I absolutely adored Henry. He’s the bad boy with a heart of gold that we all dream of meeting someday (Or is that just me? I don’t think so). When Edie first means him, he’s a huge flirt who breaks hearts left and right, so of course Edie hates him instantly. As they spend more time together, though, Edie realizes that she might actually like Henry, and Henry realizes that he might actually have found someone he really wants to be with. Edie brings out a softer, downright adorable side to Henry and honestly, I just need him to be real, please. Is that too much to ask?
One thing I really appreciated in this novel was Edie’s relationship with her two cousins, Julia and Maria. Both are close to her age and both are incredibly stuck up, so Firkins could have easily made them wicked stepsister-type characters, and they kind of start out that way, but throughout the novel, their love for Edie shines through. They’re also so over the top with their snootiness that it can be really entertaining. I always love a funny mean girl, bonus points if she turns out okay in the end.
The dialogue and prose was also fantastic. Firkins is really talented at pinpointing perfect, specific descriptions that make you go, “that’s exactly what it’s like!” I was slightly disappointed in the ending — it felt rushed to me and I think Edie chose the wrong guy, but I still enjoyed the book overall.
Are you anxiously awaiting P.S. I Still Love You on Netflix? This will definitely hold you over until then. I recommend this book to fans of agonizing love triangles, Jane Austen retellings, and warm romances.