Title: Heartbreaker Author: Thomas Duffy Publisher: CreateSpace ISBN: 978-1517416539 Pages: 183 Genre: Fiction-Thriller Reviewed by: CC Thomas
Hollywood Book Reviews
Amber Robertson is one red hot mess, from beginning to end. Amber is a 19-year-old who has just moved to New York City in order to make more out of her life. Without much of a plan, she moves in with a friend and then scrambles wildly trying to make the rent money. The Big Apple is too much of a big temptation and Amber is soon arrested and behind bars for shoplifting. While in jail, she cozies up to a prostitute and discovers there are better ways of making money than her shift at Target and palming candy bars.
If this were the only frustrating thing Amber did in the whole book, it would be easy to overlook. While there are no judgments against a girl earning some money, Amber just throws herself into her new career field without any planning or forethought. And, guess what happens? Yep, disaster. Again. One of her first clients, Miguel, becomes so enamored of her that he kidnaps her and takes Amber back to his house where he keeps her prisoner until he can teach Amber some lessons. Does Amber learn anything with her disturbed lothario? Nope. As soon as she’s released, she goes home with the first guy she finds and decides to live with him, while still tricking on the side to get some extra spending cash. Sounds like a plan, right?
Except this new guy just might be a wanted serial killer. What are the signs? He lies beside her at night and strokes her body with his knife. This is one of those characters you’re going to speak to throughout the entire book. Reading this book is like watching those horror movies where the victims rush around screaming as loud as they can while drawing their attacker to them. Amber is one of those characters. Seriously, you’ll feel like a life coach and want to call her up and give her advice throughout the entire book. What makes the story so maddening is that Amber is also really unlikeable. She’s unpleasant, difficult, and doesn’t learn from her mistakes. By the end of the book, you won’t be able to decide if Amber deserves any happiness that comes her way. However, optimists might disagree. Amber does have some good qualities and her dream of finding a life of happiness after a youth of misery will make you pull for her. See the frustration? She’s like a tug of war on your heart and logic. The title of Heartbreaker was aptly chosen.
Heartbreaker is action-packed, flowing from one scene to another. There is very little emotional reminiscing, which makes it similar to Charles Bukowski’s Women. The writing style has dialogue that is succinct and to the point. The characters are treated fairly and honestly with no excuses being made for their behavior. The characters are portrayed graphically and unemotionally, with all their scars laid bare for the world to see. It is a gritty and dark read, a story about love and the pain that many go through in order to live that happily-ever-after life. Amber’s haphazard foray into adulthood will have you alternately angry and depressed, then hopeful she’s finally on the path to happiness.
If you want a book that won’t leave you untouched, this is the read to get all those emotions percolating.
Duffy (One Love, 2014) offers a fusion of crime fiction, romance, and existential philosophy in this novel about a troubled young woman.
The storyline follows 19-year-old Amber Robertson from Maryland to New York City, where she hopes to put her promiscuous past behind her and begin a new life. But, burdened by financial hardship, she soon turns to prostitution to pay the bills. This decision leads to a series of events that will irrevocably change her life: she’s arrested for shoplifting, then charged with prostitution, and later drugged and abducted by one of her johns—a former restaurant manager from New Jersey named Miguel. When she regains consciousness, she finds that he’s handcuffed her to a bed. He tells her that he’ll still pay her for sex but that she’s essentially his prisoner until she learns some invaluable life lessons. Amber is forced to use her wits to survive long enough to either escape or convince her emotionally unstable captor to release her. When she’s finally free again and dating a passionate yet enigmatic movie theater manager named Jeffrey, Miguel’s twisted advice begin seeping back into her subconscious, and she starts to see her boyfriend in a different, and darker, light. This novel’s redemptive exploration of love and loneliness is simultaneously disturbing and thought-provoking. The storyline is conceptually and thematically intriguing—particularly in its exploration of the inner thoughts of its damaged characters. The novel falls short of its potential, though, due to sloppy writing, including numerous grammatical errors and stilted dialogue (“I am addicted, you see, to you. I cannot overcome this addiction”). There are also no page breaks between point-of-view shifts, which makes the novel seem jumbled together.
A dark yet hopeful tale of personal salvation laid low by inadequate editing.
Heartbreaker, by Thomas Duffy, is a dramatic story about a young woman, Amber Robertson. The book opens in Brooklyn on Amber’s 19th birthday. Her birthday is eventful as it is the first time she is arrested (for stealing). While in jail, she meets Missy, another young woman, who has been arrested for prostitution. As Amber and Missy talk, Amber decides that the life of an escort is as good as any other (and could help her earn some much needed money).
Amber starts her business with some online advertising as an independent escort. Unfortunately, she immediately draws the attention of a pimp, Pete. He starts making promises of protection for a cut of Amber’s money. Soon, her landlord, wants to evict her, so she starts renting motel rooms.
Unfortunately, she soon faces bigger problems. She’s kidnapped by one of her clients and starts a sordid love affair with another that eventually makes a sudden turn into something even more frightening.
As you can imagine, this book is complex and not necessarily a feel-good story. Heartbreaker’s protagonist, Amber, goes on a wild and weird anti-heroic arc right from the beginning of the story and the audience can see how those early misfortunes lead to an increasingly painful and tumultuous life. She initially presents as both hesitant and impulsive; constantly not sure about what she wants to do, but will then make a sudden and foolhardy decision.
As a reader, there is some sympathy for Amber. She ends up in pretty bad situations. Anytime things start to look as though they may improve for her, it only gets worse. Yet, she is also frustrating. Her impulsivity sometimes leads her into her worst outcomes. For example, late in the story she takes bold, rash action. Of course, I am avoiding sharing the ending here to prevent spoilers, so you will have to read for yourself to see how Amber’s story fully unfolds.
This story, in its own way, forces the reader to examine the evil that can hide in people. The evil, within the story is almost infectious, capable of spreading from person to person, evolving and mutating along the way as it collides with new lives, who act it out in their own unique way. Amber’s progression through the story seems to demonstrate her methods for confronting the evil in her past and present. It shows how she, like anyone, is capable of becoming somewhat immune to bad acts, bad people, and a bad life. Like so many people, she acts out what she has seen and experienced by replicating pain onto others.
This book is well-written, but I felt there were some issues with the pacing. At points the story seemed to drag out, such as during Amber’s interactions with Miguel and Jeffrey. I think these could have been shortened up a bit without losing any essential character development. Heartbreaker is written for mature, adult readers, who enjoy dramatic characters in intense and emotional situations.
Amber Robertson has a problem. A very big one.
She’s handcuffed to the bed of a man she mistakenly thought just wanted to spend time with her. She can’t scream for help — no one will hear her. And she can’t run away. He is always between her and the door, even when she’s not handcuffed, which is hardly ever.
No, she’s stuck, until she learns all the “lessons” he says he wants to teach her. Oh, and then there’s the sex he demands now and then.
How did she get in this predicament? She was just trying to make enough money to pay the rent in her crummy basement apartment, working at a Brooklyn Target department store, when she got the idea to become an “escort.”
She thought it would be easy money. Now, perhaps a bit too late, she sees the error of her ways.
In this unique book about one girl’s struggle to find her path in life, author Thomas Duffy explores Amber’s problematic past as a troubled teen who used sex as a way to be liked. Kicked out by her parents, she moved to New York, hoping for a fresh start.
What she got instead was a continuation of the self-degrading behavior that keeps landing her in dysfunctional relationships.
It’s a fascinating read that follows Amber’s release from the weirdly empathetic kidnapper with a fetish for handcuffs to a chance meeting with a guy in a pizzeria.
Amber’s internal demons continue to dog her, however, into the ensuing relationship with Jeffrey, the man from the pizzeria. And, the dramatic denouement sees Amber caught in a web of her own devising.
Four stars to this startling piece of fiction, which takes the reader deep inside the damaged minds of the main characters and offers fresh insights into the motivations behind their often bizarre actions.
by Thomas Duffy
reviewed by Anita Lock
"Yes. We all have dark little secrets."
Barely nineteen years of age, Amber Robertson leaves Maryland on her own to New York "in order to start a new and exciting chapter in her life." Little does Amber know just how exciting this new chapter will become, especially when she's taken hostage by Miguel, an older client, soon after starting her own "escort" service. While held in captivity, Amber learns that there is a serial killer on the loose. Fortunately, she is released. Yet moments after her release, Amber meets Jeffrey. Except for the secret journal that he keeps, Amber thinks that she may have found the perfect man in her life. Over time, Amber grows suspicious of Jeffrey's journal writing, wondering if there is any connection between the man she loves and the serial killer still at large.
Thomas Duffy takes readers on a journey into creepy territory in his fourth book. Replete with a handful of emotionally unstable characters, Duffy's third person narrative is primarily set within unnerving situations. Surrounding Amber, his main character, with a complex foiled cast, Duffy forces Amber not only to face her unresolved past, but also to figure out her future amid these strange and extremely uncomfortable circumstances. While focusing on the continual drama in Amber's life, Duffy weaves in various situations that run concurrently within his storyline. Another key literary style that drives Duffy's narrative is a mix of intense dialogue and unexpected scenarios. While maintaining this combination throughout, Duffy also keeps his plot moving by constantly alternating between character scenes and related situations. Following a flurry of un-clichéd scenes that creep to its apex, the closure to Duffy's story is equally unexpected, as he leaves it open-ended allowing readers to determine the story's conclusion. Definitely a gripping page-turner, Heart Breaker is certain to be a new favorite among psychological thriller aficionados.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review