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Heart's Desire    by Laura Pedersen order for
Heart's Desire
by Laura Pedersen
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

As she did in Beginner's Luck, Laura Pedersen starts Heart's Desire by plunging us right into the wacky world that is Hallie Palmer's life. Finished with her first year of college, Hallie is back with the Stocktons to tame their gardens while earning tuition money for the next year. This time, however, while Hallie's life is mostly on track, things in the Stockton house are in turmoil.

Gil has left Bernard because he wants to marry a woman, Ottavio is getting frustrated with Olivia because she will not accept his proposals, Rocky has fallen for the Great Dane next door, and Brandt has learned that he loves science more than gardening and has taken an internship at a lab which left no time for the now seriously neglected garden. Before Hallie even has a chance to settle in the summer house, Bernard is coercing her in his scheme to win back Gil's heart. Hallie has some agenda of her own, too: she needs to raise enough money for second-semester tuition…and lose her virginity. Hallie is in for one wild summer.

While many of the supporting characters are as eccentric as can be, Pedersen does a wonderful job of realistically portraying Hallie. All of her thoughts and feelings about present and past boyfriends are so incredibly accurate that I felt like my inner monologues were coming to life on the page. Also, while there are happy endings, the fact that nothing is sugar-coated adds to the realism of the story.

Even though Hallie is down-to-earth, the rest of the cast of characters is so deliciously crazy that this makes a wonderful read for when you just need to get away from the worries of life for a while. It is impossible not to laugh when Rocky dons Laura Wingfield's costume from The Glass Menagerie in order to make amends to Bernard for destroying a lamp, or when Bernard tries to break up Gil's engagement by serving a meal made up of foods that have devilish meanings. Hallie's patchwork family will make you smile even when life is getting the best of them - and they might even make you appreciate your family even more.

This makes a wonderful sequel to Beginner's Luck by giving us more of the wacky antics of the Stockton family. As both of Hallie's families grow, there is sure to be more to be told which is why I am eagerly anticipating Pedersen's next in the series, Full House. I am sure that reading it, as with reading Heart's Desire, will be like visiting old, and favored friends.

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