Folks in my neck of the woods remember a meek, humble woman when we think of Cassandra King. For a time, King lived here in rural central Alabama among us, our little academic community a perfect place for a quiet writer. When I saw King's name on a list of authors with titles that I might review, I was intrigued and happily requested her newest book, Queen of Broken Hearts. I am not sure what I expected to find, but I am pleased with my discovery.
Queen of Broken Hearts disproves my preconception that Cassandra King is a tentative spirit with ideas but no resolve. In fact, now I am unsure how that idea ever took root in me. What I am sure of is that King relates to a growing audience via the best tools an author has to offer - personal experience, compassion, empathy, and a desire to share something profound. As she accomplishes this sharing, her resilient spirit and personal resolve humble me, the reader.
Sharing a perseverant nature and a grounded understanding of humanity and society, King comes to her audience via narrative voice that communicates both the comforts and the tensions of the thinking mind. Her main character, Clare, is an astute judge of character and - as the lovesick widow of a kind but troubled man - a seasoned veteran of affairs of the heart. A psychologist specializing in divorce therapy, Clare proves what so many women today need to know and believe: that a woman can survive without a husband. Furthermore, Clare does much more than survive; she excels, acting as a sort of spiritual guide to other women in dangerous, unfulfilling, or inadequate relationships.
While Clare is a woman making her way on her own, this is not a tale devoid of romance or other important types of relationships. On the contrary, due largely to her no-need-for-a-man attitude, Clare is hotly pursued by two men. True to the character identity that King forges, Clare refuses to fall into bed lightly, taking the high road in all cases. And when it comes to family, a score of supportive characters prove that it takes all kinds to make one. From her eccentric mother-in-law, Zoe Catherine, to her adopted daughter, Haley, to her best friend since college, Dory, to her assistant, Etta, to her two romantically hopeful best men, Rye and Lex, Clare learns and teaches each of us reading that families may be/should be as colorful as a rainbow. Clare articulates the nature of friendship/family succinctly when she states, "Our choice of friends can reveal our needs..."
Honestly, perhaps I expected to find a trite story rift with cliche and poorly-written characters. Instead, I found characters so real that they remind me of people I have known and familiar situations. In this poignant tale, King highlights harsh realities of what it means to be human, discussed in the context of the wounding that all human beings face in relationships. And considering its messages of success and survival in the face of such diversity, Queen of Broken Hearts might otherwise be entitled Master of Mending Hearts. What the reader gains from this book is a pleasant, light read that offers a touch of self-help for those with certain relationship therapy and self-esteem needs.