From 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?
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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.