After a rough day, accountant Makenna James is looking forward to a relaxing evening. Rushing to make the elevator in her building before the door closes, she drops her cell phone, but a man inside the elevator is kind enough to hold the door for her. Distracted by her now-broken phone, she only catches a glimpse of a tattooed arm before the lights go out.
Caden Grayson is in the building on personal business, when a harried woman comes barreling toward the elevator, fumbling her bags and her phone. With her head down, trying to get everything back in order, he doesn't get much of a look at anything but her beautiful red hair before the elevator stops and they're plunged into darkness. Despite the tattoos, piercings, and scars that give him a fearsome look, a trauma from Caden's past leaves him terrified of the dark and enclosed spaces. Suddenly he finds himself in his worst nightmare, fighting to stave off the panic.
Makenna's lovely voice becomes a lifeline to Caden, soothing his troubled spirit. To maintain that sense of calm and with nothing better to do, the pair spend the next several hours in the dark simply talking and getting to know one another. Without the preconceived notions of each other's physical appearance to get in the way and with only a meeting of hearts and minds to connect them, an attraction soon takes root and sparks begin to fly. But will they still feel the same when the lights come back on?
Hearts in Darkness hit my radar several years ago and has been on my TBR pile ever since. I had a feeling it was a book I would enjoy, and it definitely didn't disappoint. It's a fairly short novella, and as such, it's a pretty simple story that's primarily character driven. Caden and Makenna, our hero and heroine become stranded in an elevator together when the power goes out. They spend the next several hours getting to know one another, and during that time a deep attraction builds, leading to some luscious steaminess both while they're stuck together and after they get out. These two fit together perfectly and I thoroughly enjoyed their story.
Makenna is a forensic accountant who is haphazardly juggling her bags on the way to the elevator, while looking forward to a quiet evening at home. After dropping her cell phone on the way there, she's distracted by checking it out and doesn't get more than a glimpse of a tattoo on the hand of the Good Samaritan who holds the elevator door for her. When the elevator stops and the lights go out, she can't help laughing, because it's the perfect ending to what was already a crappy day. Makenna is surprisingly cool as a cucumber under the circumstances and strikes up a conversation in the dark with her companion. I loved Makenna. She lost her mother as a child and was the only girl in the family, but she's very close to her three brothers and her father. Given her background, she's a little awkward and slightly lacking in confidence, but she's filled with empathy and compassion for Caden, especially after they start sharing more personal details about their lives. She's also a comforting presence during Caden's panic attacks. She's simply a kind, caring woman who isn't afraid to show Caden what a great guy he is.
Caden, by contrast, doesn't have any family. In fact, he was in the building to see an attorney about his father's estate. Because she had her head down, he never got a good look at Makenna's face, but he loves her long, wavy, red hair and thinks she has a nice body. Due to a past trauma, Caden has a fear of the dark and enclosed spaces, so when they become stranded in the elevator, his anxiety kicks into high gear. However, he finds Makenna's voice comforting, and as he converses with her, she helps him regain a sense of calm. Caden has always been something of a loner, but over the hours, as they discover how much they have in common, he can't help feeling like he's found someone who understands him. Just like that, he know he's already falling for her. I loved Caden every bit as much as Makenna. With his tattoos, piercings, skull trim, and scars, he's rather rough-looking on the outside, but inside he's a big teddy bear. He's very kind and gentle with a soft heart, but at the same time, he can be very sexy and passionate. I think one of the things I adored most about him is that he doesn't take their shared attraction for granted and use it as an excuse to push himself on Makenna. He still asks permission to touch her and checks in with her periodically to make sure she's still on board. Caden is exactly the kind of guy I'd love to wrap up in my arms and love on just like Makenna did.
I think one of the things I enjoyed the most about Hearts in Darkness is the idea of getting to know someone without the preconceived notions of their appearance getting in the way. I think if more people were able to become acquainted in darkness, perhaps we might not be so quick to judge. Caden has experienced that type of judgment because of his appearance, but inside he's a completely different person than what one might think at first glance. Stories like this that take place over such a short time frame often aren't as believable to me, but I fell for this one hook, line, and sinker. I think it's because Laura Kaye knows how to create a deep emotional connection between her characters that made me totally believe in their rapidly burgeoning feelings. That said, there are no unrealistic declarations of love, but IMHO, the way these two treat each other is indicative of those types of emotions. Even if I didn't know that there was a sequel to the book, I'd have no trouble believing they were going to be together for a long time. Their interactions are sweet and tender, as well as hot and sexy, while the intimate scenes are deliciously sensual. Although some book websites have this billed as erotic romance, it's really more of a sensual type of steam with nothing kinky in nature and the sex doesn't overwhelm the story. The only tiny critique I have is that there were a few places where the wording was a little rough around the edges and could have been smoothed out, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story. Hearts in Darkness was a pure romantic indulgence, and I can't wait to read the follow-up book, Love in the Light, to hopefully see Caden and Makenna get an even better HEA.
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