The Queen of Hearts
by Kimmery Martin
” ‘You can’t reason with your heart; it has its own laws, and thumps about things which the intellect scorns.’ “
Queen of Hearts is a novel set firmly in the sprit of a world that appears to have endless amounts of intrigue, drama, forbidden romance, and chaos – that of the medical profession. ER’s, intensive care units, clinical trials and lessons given by on-the-job experience have long been sought out by the prying eyes of those less motivated to go the extra mile in their education to become medical doctors or nurses in their own right. It is a profession allocated to a select few; those who devote their lives to others in the pursuit of healing and are forever learning how to better serve and protect in a way that seems wrought with magic. There is something about the interconnected hospital relationships that fascinate viewers and readers – shows like Grey’s Anatomy and ER have been regaling us with tales of romantic interludes and the curious cases of compelling patients for over a decade. Authors like Patricia Cornwell have made their living by schooling readers of the darker side of the profession – with their elaborate tales of medicine woven with the intricacies of premeditated murder. There seems to be an endless abundance of theatrics amongst the doctors and nurses who inhabit the buildings of healing, and Kimmery Martin has added her story to the ever-growing pile of juicy medical dramas.
Chronicling the lives of two best friends in tandem, the story begins in present day North Carolina. Zadie is a mostly happy-go-lucky pediatric cardiologist, content to spend her days listening to the sweet tiny beats of a newborn’s heart and her evenings wrangling her own crazy brood of four children. Her husband travels for work, but it seems to only heighten their time together, as they have the same passion for one another now as they did years ago when they first met. She has it all, living in an affluent area of Charlotte and liked by nearly everyone who meets her, Zadie is a person you can trust.
Between patients and home life, Zadie’s story backtracks to her past as a medical student. As she navigated through the trials and tribulations of attempting to learn how to save a life while being utterly exhausted and at times overwhelmed, she somehow found the time to fall in love – with her chief resident, of course . . . the one man who was strictly forbidden to her while she worked on his service. Dr. X was enigmatic and strikingly handsome; his charm knew no bounds as he steamrolled his way through every female on the hospital floor. Zadie didn’t have much of a chance when it came to losing herself to him, but she didn’t put up much of a fight. He bled into the chambers of her heart with overpowering emotions and heady desire.
But things went sour in the end as immature romances mostly do; mistakes were made and lives were forever altered in ways that leave scars cemented upon the soul. Zadie cannot look back at her time with Dr. X without a shiver going down her spine; she remembers how cruel he could be, how careless he could be with the feelings of others and how cutting he could be with his words. Her only saving grace back then was the close clique of friends she had, the most important of those integral allies being Emma, and Zadie is grateful that years later the two have found their career paths fruitful in the same affluent town.
Emma Colley has always been regarded as a bit of an ice-queen, something that left her a complete juxtaposition to her best friend Zadie. Where Zadie emitted sunshine and flowers, Emma was more rainy days and naked winter trees. Friends since the latter years of their adolescence, the two have an unbreakable bond and an easiness that has sustained itself through the labors of medical school and residencies, and has landed them as both happily married women with families of their own. Emma works as a trauma surgeon, a path that is both compelling and heart-wrenching; a job that is equal parts chaotic and full of grace. The structure of surgery suits her; things tend to work better in Emma’s life when there is order. But when Zadie’s past joins Emma’s present as Dr. X resurfaces as part of her group at the hospital, Emma will be forced to reconcile the biggest mistake of her life. A mistake that took a life instead of saving one. And when a lethal combination of distraction and fate leads to another death on Emma’s watch, she must face her deepest fears and learn how to be honest with the one person in her life who trusts her the most.
Queen of Hearts is the debut novel by mom, physician, and self-proclaimed literary nerd, Kimmery Martin. Earning 4 out of 5 stars from me, it is a well-written novel with appropriate amounts of drama and comic relief. The true unsung star of the show, in my opinion, is Zadie’s precocious daughter Delaney – a resident biter of fellow preschoolers and a young lady eloquently aware of her hilarious choice in words, the little girl is full of the joy that can only encompass those at that age. As a mother myself, I am always appreciative of an author’s fair representation of motherhood and motherhood versus career, and I felt that Martin hit most of those nails on the head. Zadie was the more authentic of the two points of view, and I could commiserate with her on many levels.
A few drawbacks for me – one being how the romance between Dr. X and the women felt a bit hollow. I did not feel the passion that was intended, and the way things were wrapped up at the end felt a little contrived. For Zadie to have “loved” Dr. X as much as she did . . . well, I don’t believe she would have reacted the way she did and let her friend off the hook so easily. The first half of the book made it seem like there was a huge build-up of something; that maybe Dr. X was dangerous or nefarious in the bodily sense, but instead it was just a simple matter of forbidden love that was manipulated out of control. That drama could have been ironed out just a little easier for the reader.
I felt that Emma had many more layers to be explored. Her own story took too long in the telling, and so she got shuffled to the end with a few long pages roughing explaining why she behaved the way she did. She deserved more air-time. While Zadie was the more authentic of the duo, Emma was infinitely more interesting.
All in all, I recommend Queen of Hearts and happily give it 4 out of 5 stars. Readers who enjoyed Jamie Raintree’s Perfectly Undone or Gabrielle Zevin’s Young Jane Young would enjoy this book.