His Pepper Heart: Short Fiction by Brandy Heineman

hispepperheart_heinemanFrom the back cover:

“You must really like peppers.”

Their date was entirely forgettable.  The meal maxed out the spicy scale; the conversation, not so much.  If she hadn’t stolen Zachary’s journal-or read the stupid thing-she never would’ve fallen for him.  Messing up is unpalatable, but unless she returns the journal, how will she have a prayer of seeing her name peppered across its pages?

◊   ◊   ◊

I dove into this surprising little story without knowing a thing beyond the front cover (and somewhat in spite of it, as I am staunchly anti-pepper).  I was expecting a romance and that is sorta, kinda what it turned out to be.

My first thought as I began to read was that the narrator had made her first mistake by agreeing to a blind date at a man’s apartment.  Had she never heard of “stranger danger?”  As the story continued, I changed my mind.  Perhaps the mistake had been Zachary’s.

This short work of fiction is well written and smartly structured and I want to say it was sweet, but except for the context in which ‘sweet’ means ‘clean,’ I can’t (and I’m resisting all impulses toward peppery puns).  Odd, quirky, different.  These are more fitting adjectives for a good story with not one single character I could grab on to and either identify with or like.  It left me feeling a bit off-kilter as a reader, knowing that I had enjoyed experiencing this story but at the same time having a mental “Wait – what? What did I just read?” moment.  A bit like Zachary’s journal entries, this ends with a sense that you didn’t quite get the whole story.

I’m still not 100% certain what to think, but I do know that I am intrigued enough to give the author’s debut novel, Whispers in the Branches, a try.

His Pepper Heart: Short Fiction by Brandy Heineman is available as a 40 page e-book, published in February 2016.  This review refers to a 51 page print “Special Giveaway Edition” that is not available for purchase, received as part of a giveaway from christianreadersretreat.blogspot.com.  A review was not required.  All opinions expressed are my own.