A Heart for Robbie

A Heart for Robbie by J. P. Barnaby

In this poignant story of love and determination, Barnaby details the anguish and hope a new father goes through when his son is born with a heart defect.

When young adult novelist Julian Holmes learns that his newborn son has a life-threatening heart defect, he is immediately plunged into the confusing world of donor lists, medications, and possibilities.

While Robbie waits for an available heart, Julian meets hospital insurance administrator Simon Phelps, who unlike Julian, is obsessively closeted. Although the men feel an immediate attraction, their current lives seem to preclude any kind of relationship. Julian is too worried about Robbie and his chances of survival while Simon is on the edge of conflict of interest by going out with the author. But despite the obstacles to their getting together, they reach out, finding solace that helps them stay sane in a stressful situation.

As she did in her previous books, author Barnaby presents a compelling and sympathetic character in Julian, whose loneliness manifests itself by his talking to his fictional characters and seeing them as his best friends. Fortunately, Julian’s family and his college best friends provide the needed support even though they realize what he really needs is love in his life.

Simon grows believably in this book, from a man so closeted that he’s afraid to befriend a man to someone who steps up and out when he’s most needed. He, like Julian, is an adult who knows he needs to make big decisions and while fearful, takes necessary action, thinking more about Julian and Robbie than himself.

While both men have their misgivings about a relationship during difficult times, the fact that they are both adults and man-up when it’s called for make the angst and suffering in this story all the more believable and able to touch readers’ hearts.

Another hallmark of Barnaby’s writing style is solidly in place here: The supporting characters (including the fictional ones in Julian’s books). Particularly wonderful are Julian’s family, especially his parents who treat him like the adult he is. Julian’s parents are nicely juxtaposed with Simon’s mother who has been setting him up with eligible women for decades, and who just wants grandchildren.

My only misgiving is the odd about-face that one of the hospital administrators makes after he threatens both Julian and Simon. I needed just a little more explanation when this seemingly major plot point fizzled out abruptly.

Despite that oddity, Barnaby’s latest is another that will engross her fans and make her new ones. This is another in a long list of good novels I’d recommend to readers new to gay romance.