“Dorothy leaned in, her velvety lips touching mine…”
It’s the spring of 1958 and amateur guitarist/songwriter Alice Johnson feels like a stranger in her small Southern town. Everyone knows her business and is pushing her to settle down and marry like all the other young women in town. Only Alice’s love of music provides an escape from the stifling expectations of family and society.
One night, Alice hears the mesmerizing voice of up-and-coming country singer Dorothy Long and is immediately entranced. Dorothy becomes Alice’s muse, inspiring her to write songs for Dorothy—even though she never imagines that Dorothy will hear them.
But then she finally meets Dorothy and her life turns upside down. Soon Alice finds herself on the road, and not just sharing the stage—but sharing a hotel room—with her idol. Now what is Alice going to do with the unexpected desire that seems to consume her?
FROM THE AUTHOR
"The story of In My Heart was sparked by one thought. What if the classic country singer Patsy Cline was a lesbian? I’m not sure what led me to ask myself such a question, but I assume I was listening to that spellbinding voice at the time. Love songs are always about women for me, no matter who’s performing them.
In My Heart has nothing to do with Patsy or her life. Still, how her songs make me feel was an excellent jumping-off point. One half of the couple in my book, Alice Johnson, is stuck in a small town and music becomes her way out of it. It was simple for me to imagine Alice hearing a song like "Sweet Dreams" or "Crazy" and falling head over heels with the singer, thanks to the raw longing Dorothy conveys with her voice. We recognize the emotion in those tunes even if we haven’t had the chance to experience them yet.
The idea also caught me because of the contradiction; country music has a reputation for being traditional and conservative. No mainstream country star was out of the closet until Chely Wright bravely took the plunge in 2010, but of course, that doesn’t mean that gay people weren’t always there. Take kd lang, who started out as a crooner in Nashville in the ’80s before she went pop. If there’s ever been a voice to equal Patsy Cline’s, it’s hers.
Country music is evocative of so many things, and I wanted to wrap all those images up in a sweet and sexy bow. I dreamed of highways surrounded by the American landscape, roadside diners, cowboy boots, honky-tonks, and guitars.
Thanks to the inspiration from Patsy, I decided to set In My Heart in the 1950s. It’s never easy to trace ideas back to their roots, but for the chosen period, I also owe a debt to one of my favorite movies, Carol. There’s something special about how the women in that film go up against repressive 1950s society. It doesn’t matter that the world is against them because they have something worth fighting for. I got a kick out of thinking about all the little ways that era would affect Alice and Dorothy’s relationship. No cell phones, no email, no Internet.
Even if it’s not your thing, country music is for anyone who wants it. Its tales of lost love and heartbreak belong to our community as much as they belong to anyone."
Pin's Reviews - In My Heart is a well-written romance with good pacing and dialogue. The interesting plot is about two strong talented women, country music, small-town mindset, being different... I really liked both main characters, and there were some good secondary characters. The setting, 1958 American South, plays a very nice role in the narrative, nicely capturing the position of women, without being overbearing. All in all, a really enjoyable story which I will read again. I recommend it, and am looking forward to the next book by the author.
Lex Kent’s Reviews - If you are looking for a historic-fiction-romance, especially one that is more on the feel good side, I would recommend this one. Hawkins has become an automatic read for me so I can’t wait to see what she puts out next.
Reviewer @ Large - An extremely well-written sweet, simple story set in the 1950s. This is a slow unfurling romance (distinctly different from slow burn) in keeping time period it is set in. The story is uncomplicated but so excellently written that it keeps you turning the pages without any flagging in attention. This book is definitely recommended.
R. Swier - This was a well written story. The author wrote captivating dialogue filled with emotional angst and heart wrenching truth regarding the complications of a forbidden love. I also enjoyed the musical aspect of the story, especially Alice and Dorothy’s songs “In My Heart” and “The Two of Us” and how it expressed their love for each other—without being seen as such by their audience. Their love… hidden in plain sight.
Overall, this was a very entertaining read!
hala m - Lovely. I fell in love with everything in this book.
Heather B. - In My Heart is a fantastic historical novel. The characters and storyline are interesting. The book is well written. I would read more by this author.
Set in 1958 in small town Southern US and focused on the early days of the country music circuit, this is a really sweet and gentle romance. The setting gives it a bit of a nostalgic feel, but Hawkins keeps things realistic and the setting comes alive. Hawkins provides enough detail to set the scene and give the reader a feeling of being in the moment without resorting to dumping information and context. Narrated by Alice, In My Heart follows her struggle to find her place in the world. There’s a wonderful innocence and inner strength in Alice–smothered by her life in a small southern US town, she wants more than to follow in the footsteps of her mother and sister, she wants to make her own way in the world and make her own mark. I especially appreciated that Hawkins wrote Alice within the context of the time and place–in some novels, the main characters openly, and rather unrealistically, challenge the societal norms but Alice’s resolution and rebellions are subtle and small…This isn’t a long book but Hawkins uses the time she has with the reader to focus on the characters and creates a wonderfully sweet romance.
Darlene V. - This is an outstanding novel on all fronts. It is a wonderful look into the 1950s country music scene, through the eyes of a small town girl with a talent for song writing and aspirations of meeting her singing idol. The characters are diverse, realistic and interesting. I loved these people, especially the main characters, and was genuinely invested in the two of them being able to be together. The main character discovers some pulp novels, so the reader gets a firsthand experience of what it may have been like for a young lesbian, who thinks she's the only one, to realize that she's not alone. That was a lovely touch that really added to the story and to my engagement with the character. I would and will recommend this romance novel to anyone looking for a little slice of history mixed in with a sweet romance. Well done Bette Hawkins, I look forward to reading more of your stories.
Cathy W. - This is my first time reading a Bette Hawkins novel and I have to be honest... it won't be my last. BH really knows how to write, and as a reader she kept me hooked. I've never been one for historical fiction but once started I didn't put it down. This is a wonderfully written story, the romance between Dorothy and Alice is enjoyable. I would certainly recommend this novel, a very good read.