The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin published in 2018.
“Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers–Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years. As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie’s life—both professionally and personally—throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick’s unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.”
Don’t be fooled by the title, this book has nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland.
Instead, it focuses on two women, Zadie and Emma, who met and formed a strong friendship while in medical school. Now, they are both successfully working in the medical community and have grown families of their own. The past is behind them, yet it threatens to resurface when an old colleague and fling of Zadie’s gets transferred to Emma’s team. Both women want nothing to do with him for their own reasons, yet he seems desperate to contact Zadie. Through the majority of the novel, it is unknown what he did that caused Zadie and Emma to have such a strong hatred for him, and the past is slowly unravelled as the chapters swapped between present day and their past experiences in medical school.
Let’s begin by discussing what I enjoyed about this book. The characters were structured rather well and the relationships between them were believable and genuine. The two main characters were the cliche opposites attract trope; Zadie being warm-hearted and emotional while Emma is stoic and self-controlled. Their personalities balanced out well and they bounced off each other well during dialogue scenes. This coupled with the causal and easy to follow writing style made for a generally straightforward read.
Another aspect I respected was the medical perspective. Obviously, since both of the main characters are doctors (Zadie a pediatric cardiologist and Emma a trauma surgeon), there were a lot of scenes set in the hospital. Me being the biology nerd that I am relished in these scenes, and since the author is an emergency medicine doctor, it’s guaranteed that all the information is relatively accurate. I liked that I could trust all the information that was being thrown at me instead of having Google handy so I could double-check its legitimacy.
Now that’s about all the positive things I can say about The Queen of Hearts. Not to say that the rest of this review is going to be negative, just somewhat neutral. For some reason, I took me longer than usual to read this book, despite saying before that it’s quite the easy read. I wasn’t gravitating towards it during my spare time like most books, and I wasn’t cancelling plans so I could stay home and read it like I have with some really amazing books. It almost got to the point that it felt like a chore to pick it up, the only reason I kept coming back to it was just to finish it. I would have left it unfinished if it wasn’t for the ominous secret that kept being referenced.
Speaking of secrets and rumours and drama, this book is chock-full of it. It reminded me a lot of Grey’s Anatomy, which I’m not a huge fan of (yet if you do love that show, I’m assuming you’ll enjoy this book more than I did). And normally one might think this is a good thing, yet the secrets and rumours and drama need to live up to their expectations and have that shock factor if you’re going to allude to it for over two hundred and fifty pages. The big reveal near the end was not much of a twist for me considering it’s pretty predictable. I was expecting much more for all the build-up that Martin provided, and frankly reacted to discovering the truth by thinking, “Oh, that’s it?” Granted, what the characters went through was not pleasant in the slightest, it was not nearly as traumatic as I was expecting.
Finally, there was an array of topics that I wish the author paid closer attention to, the two I’m going to be talking about are suicide and poverty. Both these sensitive subjects were mentioned throughout the pages of The Queen of Hearts, but not in the way that I would have hoped they were. I felt as if they were only utilized to push the story forward or to justify Emma’s actions. The topic of suicide could have been handled a bit more tactfully and they only briefly brought up Emma’s past with poverty as an excuse for what she did. I don’t mind when authors tackle touché subjects, I just think they should be covered with the respect they deserve.
This book sort of threw my reading schedule off balance. I usually read about a book a week, but this one took me a lot longer to get through. I don’t know why but I wasn’t pulled towards reading this book like I am with others. Maybe it was the fruitless drama that bordered on cliche medical drama television. So here’s the upside: if you really like Grey’s Anatomy, I’d definitely recommend this book for you. But if you’re like me and prefer realistically heavy medical plots that focus on difficult subjects, you might be better off leaving this on the shelf.