Blog tour: I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory
Hello everyone! This is the most exciting blog tour I’ve been involved in all year, and I’ve been dying to share my thoughts on I Hold Your Heart – Karen Gregory’s third novel – with you all.
I absolutely loved Countless and Skylarks left me speechless (quite literally: I still haven’t been able to put my thoughts into enough words to review it…) so it’s not a surprise that I enjoyed I Hold Your Heart just as much as its predecessors, but there are so many reasons why.
Before I dive into my review, here’s a bit more information about I Hold Your Heart – if you’re not already interested, the blurb alone makes this one unmissable.
“You make me feel like there’s something good in the world I can hold on to,” Aaron says. He kisses me again, draws me so close it’s almost hard to breathe. “I love you, Gem. And I promise I’ll hold your heart forever.”
When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about.
But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma’s life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?
Told in both Gemma’s and Aaron’s words, this is a raw, moving exploration of gaslighting in teenage relationships that skewers our ideas of what love looks like.
I Hold Your Heart is an utter masterpiece.
Gemma first sees Aaron as she’s leaving one of her brother’s football matches, their eyes meeting across the pitch – sparks flying, a soaring orchestral soundtrack playing in the background – and she’s instantly attracted to him. Heading straight to her shift at the cafe with her best friend Esi, she can’t stop wondering whether she should have given him her number when – lo and behold – in he walks.
A huge fan of country songs, Gemma has always believed in true love and soulmates, the love stories that all of the greats sing about. She just hadn’t expected her first love to be it, but Aaron undeniably is. He’s perfect.
Karen Gregory approaches the topic of abusive relationships very intelligently.
At the beginning, I Hold Your Heart feels like it’s the worst kind of contemporary, filled with cringey instalove and soppy moments that have you rolling your eyes and trying not to be sick. It’s a genius decision, though: the reader feels exactly like Gemma, so swept off of her feet by Aaron that when he starts to show his darker side it’s almost impossible to believe.
As the book hasn’t been out very long I’m not going to go into some of the worst aspects of Aaron’s behaviour, but the slow and steady escalation makes I Hold Your Heart one of the most realistic depictions of abusive relationships that I’ve read. I’ve seen it touched upon a few times in YA, but normally the change in personality occurs at such a breakneck speed that it feels highly unbelievable. Instead, Gregory gets her readers care deeply for these characters – to even care for their relationship, at its more tender moments – only to see it come crashing down very dramatically.
You really feel yourself rooting for Gemma and Aaron at points. It’s hard not to agree when she pushes away Esi, who is getting overly involved in her relationship, because she should be allowed to be happy! But that’s the most dangerous thing about abusive relationships: if people think you’re happy, it’s even harder to tell people – or even yourself – that you’re not, and before you know it there’s no one left for you to talk to because you’ve pushed everyone away.
The inclusion of Aaron’s perspective really is the icing on the cake. As Gemma starts to realise that she isn’t happy, the story jumps across to Aaron more and more regularly, showing us how he justifies all of his actions – even the most horrible ones. It’s pretty scary stuff, because things that would be inexcusable to most people seem like common sense to him.
I think I Hold Your Heart could have a huge positive impact, as it showcases the warning signs so eloquently that it’s bound to have readers reaching out to close friends just to make sure that they’re doing okay.
This book is perfect for fans of Eve Ainsworth and Louise O’Neill – both authors who aren’t afraid to tackle emotional and controversial subjects in YA – and for fans of Holly Bourne, as some of Aaron’s behaviour later in the novel reminds me so much of It Only Happens in the Movies (one scene in particular, but you’ll know which one after you’ve read it!).
If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of I Hold Your Heart, it’s available on Amazon.
About the author:
Karen Gregory has been a confirmed bookworm since early childhood. She wrote her first story about Bantra the mouse aged twelve, then put away the word processor until her first child was born, when she was overtaken by the urge to write. Her first novel, Countless, published in 2017, was shortlisted for the Leeds Book Award and longlisted for the Branford Boase. Her second novel, Skylarks, was published in 2018. Karen lives in Wiltshire with her family.
Before I go I’d like to say a huge thank you to Faye Rogers for organising this blog tour. It’s been a dream to review this book: with every new release Karen Gregory is further cementing herself as my favourite author!