I have had the first three I Heart books on my shelf for god knows how long. I read The Single Girl’s To Do List about six years ago and loved it, but just never got round to reading any more of Lindsey Kelk’s work. After seeing her at a signing a couple of months ago, I was reminded of how much I’d enjoyed that book, so I started on the I Heart series and finished them all in a fairly quick succession. So, I’m going to do my best to de-tangle them in my head (much like after a particularly vigorous spin cycle on the washing machine) to give my verdict on each, and on the series overall.
I Heart New York is the first instalment in the series, where we meet Angela as a broken hearted mess who spontaneously gets on a plane to JFK with a carry on case and the clothes on her back. This one felt very much like a rom com, with spontaneity that completely defied logic – how did she get on a plane to New York with no visa? How did she really afford all that expensive make up and designer clothes? Why was she not at all bothered about getting her share of the house she bought with Mark? Surely that could’ve solved her financial problems, but logic seems to have no place in Angela’s mind. However, like a good rom-com, I found myself overlooking the technicalities and just enjoying the overall story – and who wants to read a book that’s too much like real life anyway? If I wanted to read about credit card debt and career disasters I would start a diary of my own life.
Next comes I Heart Hollywood which, to be brutally honest, doesn’t need to be in the series. I really don’t like to be negative about books because I know someone spent a long time pouring their heart into it and it feels petty and unnecessary to ruin that, but this one was a bit forgettable if I’m totally honest. I Heart New York could very easily have been a standalone book, so the sequel was always going to be difficult to get just right, but I really didn’t get the whole idea of James Jacobs. He was being a complete twat to Angela the entire time, and as much as I’m sure it wasn’t meant like this, the issue of his sexuality and him covering it up with all these ‘beards’ came across as a bit stereotypical and erring on the edge of homophobic. It was all intended as part of an intriguing plot twist, which it was, but for me James’ controlling manager wanting to cover everything up and the George Michael-ing in the toilets did come across as a little bit cliché – as if gay men automatically have to be massive sluts. Again, Lindsey Kelk is a lovely person who I’m sure did not intend for that to be implied, but my interpretation of this book is that it was a bit plotless and slightly insensitive.
I Heart Paris is where it started to really feel like a series to me, as regular characters were starting to become more familiar and given deeper back stories so I became quite invested by this point and was actively wanting to finish the whole series and find out what journeys the characters embarked on. There was very little of Jenny in this book which is possibly why I enjoyed it so much, but it probably had more to do with Angela and Alex’s relationship starting to get quite serious and I became quite invested in that. It was important at this stage to start seeing Alex as an entity in himself and not as Angela’s boyfriend, otherwise the series probably couldn’t last as long, so it was a good palette cleanser learning about his back story and getting to know his personality and more about his life outside of being with Angela.
I Heart Vegas would probably be ranked just above I Heart Hollywood for being a bit of a filler book. Parts of it felt a bit irrelevant, for example all of Angela’s partying with James Jacobs and Jenny’s model friends really made me start to dislike her and it seemed to me like she stopped caring about her career or her relationship with Alex as much, and wanted to have a little ‘woe is me’ pity party. However, as I will elaborate on later, it is good to have a flawed main character that you start to root for to do better. If I was Angela’s friend, I would certainly have been sitting her down with a cup of tea at this stage and talking to her about her poor decisions. Alex certainly puts up with a lot from her overall, but especially so in this one. Having said that though, the proposal at the end is unbelievably cute and one hundred percent hashtag goals.
I heart London is definitely in the runnings for my favourite in the I Heart series. The main thought I’d had until this point about Angela was that I didn’t quite understand how she could just drop everything and move abroad and abandon her friends and family with no real explanation as to why. I had assumed from the first book when Angela’s mum stayed in her room after Louboutin-gate that they had a close relationship, and I never really understood her relationship with Louisa and her never telling Angela about Mark and his mistress. It was necessary at this point in the series to delve into who Angela was before she came to New York, and definitely put all her thoughts and feelings into proper context for me as a reader. Similarly, seeing Jenny so vulnerable throughout this book (and her being put in her place by Louisa which was a personal highlight), definitely made me appreciate her character much more than I had I previous instalments. Yes, I still don’t like her overall as a person, but after I Heart London I started to understand why she has certain flaws and how she can come across as quite harsh and controlling but that this is more of a front to protect herself.
I Heart Christmas was a little bit disappointing. As a self-professed Christmas enthusiast I was really excited for this one, but it didn’t feel as Christmassy as I’d hoped it would. I thought it was more just that the story happened to take place at Christmas, like Die Hard, and not a Christmas book in itself, so that was a bit of false advertising if you ask me. This story was, although enjoyable overall, a bit of a filler book. It was great seeing Angela’s magazine taking off and her becoming a career woman, and tackling the issue of whether women can have a career and a family which is relevant for so many women still, Angela’s treatment of Alex over the issue of having children was horribly selfish and really put me off her for a while. I don’t think it’s right at all to call a woman selfish for wanting a career instead of a family, and I think all women should be able to have full control over that decision, but I do think she maybe should’ve cleared that up with Alex before rushing into marrying him, and she seemed generally incapable of having an adult conversation about it so I got a bit bored of her constant pouting. Also, she really needs to stop taking advice from Jenny because she’s even worse.
I Heart Forever is the latest, and as far as I’m aware not the final, instalment of the series and is tied with I Heart London for my favourite one. This one seemed to have a great balance between career drama, friendship drama and relationship drama so I didn’t feel like any of the plots were being dragged out further than they needed to be, which has been the case with some of the earlier books. Once again, we find Jenny being a selfish bitch, this time about getting engaged, but Angela does seem to grow a backbone at this point and challenges her a bit which I did enjoy. Seeing Angela trying to deal with various crises without Alex was an interesting change of pace as well, as I hadn’t seen Angela single since about chapter three of I Heart New York, so it definitely helped the reader appreciate her as the leading lady. I’m really liking Angela’s parents playing more of a role in the story now as well, as a nice reminder of where she came from and why she does and thinks certain things.
On balance, although this is generally a more negative review than I like to write and I feel really guilty about this, I did generally enjoy the series as a whole. I wouldn’t recommend reading them as standalones, apart from possibly the first one, because I don’t think the characters can be seen to their full potential in any of the books without the context of all the others. I am looking forward to the next part of the series and to see how Angela tackles motherhood, hopefully she matures a bit more but probably won’t if Jenny is still kicking about at this point. I do think this series would make a very successful couple of films if the filler plots were cut out – if done correctly I think Angela Clark has the potential to be the millennials’ answer to Bridget Jones. Even though I rolled my eyes when Jenny went back to Craig for the umpteenth time, and tutted at Angela for being such a brat when she’s wedding planning at home in I Heart London, I understood why those two characters would behave like that within those situations. Too many authors create characters that are overly perfect and immediately get you on their side, so you can never really look at them objectively and unpick them. Until recently, it was a massive taboo to point out what a massive selfish bitch Carrie Bradshaw is, because we were all expected to want to be her and were too busy ogling over her sex life and wardrobe to step back and realise that she wasn’t living this perfect fantasy life; so it has to be said here that Lindsey Kelk does do character depth extremely well and even though you don’t always like them, you still enjoy reading about them. Overall, I’d give this series a 3/5; worth a read but I wouldn’t personally put myself out to make time to read it.