First Look: Rhonda Helms’ Break Your Heart

Rhonda Helms
Break Your Heart
Kensington / July 28, 2015 /
 $9.95 print & $4.99 digital

Fearless and flirtatious, Megan Porter isn’t your typical math major. On the fast track to graduating with honors, a spot in her school’s masters program is nearly guaranteed. But her senior year is quickly turned upside-down by her new thesis advisor, cryptography professor Dr. Nick Muramoto. Young, effortlessly good-looking, and intellectual, he’s far more intriguing than the immature jocks Megan usually goes for. And as she decodes the hidden messages he leaves in the margins of her assignments and in their emails, she realizes this might be more than a schoolgirl crush–especially after they share a passionate kiss…

Soon Nick and Megan grow closer, and their different worlds begin to merge. But if their relationship is discovered, Nick’s career could be over. With Megan’s parents close to campus on business, hiding their love becomes an even greater challenge. Yet keeping secrets will lead Megan to discover hers is just one piece in a much larger puzzle–next to her mother’s stash of painkillers–that may put her carefully laid plans for the future in jeopardy. 

Teacher-student, New Adult, interracial romance. With Break Your Heart, author Rhonda Helms deftly gift-wraps several trope-tastic elements and freshens up a subgenre that’s been glutted by a lot of the same stories. In this follow-up to 2014’s Scratch, math geek Megan Porter and cryptography professor Nick Muramoto are as far from the standard NA set-up as you can imagine, bonding over their love of puzzles and an instant attraction. Neither of them needs any kind of healing, just a safe place to share their dreams, and the threat of discovery and accusations of impropriety are a big enough conflict to keep things interesting.

He was a smart, savvy man. Who was he outside of school? Was he married? I hadn’t seen a ring on his finger, but that wasn’t always an indicator of solo status. Besides, he could have a girlfriend or fiancée. What kind of things did he do in his spare time? And how did he get to this level of professorhood at such a young age?

Something about him intrigued me, against my better judgment. Something in me wanted to know more. And in that moment, I had a sudden, real discomfort that distracting myself with other guys wouldn’t satisfy that itch right below my skin. The itch to understand who my professor was and what made him tick.

The strength of Helms’ story is how readers learn what makes Megan tick. She’s a strong, intelligent, confident young black woman in a very male-driven field. This is very much her journey, as she finishes up her senior year, tries to figure out what she wants from her life, and deals with her mother’s increasingly apparent addiction to painkillers. Falling in love with Nick should be a further complication, but the connection is easy and comfortable and something paradoxically steady in her otherwise up-in-the-air world. The pair starts emailing early on in Break Your Heart―ostensibly about Megan’s thesis―and that classic epistolary format lets them bond quickly. Who hasn’t shared things via a text or a tweet that they probably wouldn’t say to a stranger aloud? Add to that an incendiary physical attraction and these two are toast―and readers are with Megan every step of the way, as she fights with herself, as her roommate Casey advises her to wait until the end of the semester to pursue Nick (he won’t be her professor then!), and as she says, “Screw it!” and they start a relationship.

The “rightness” of Nick and Megan is apparent, cemented by Megan’s passing flirtation with a hottie named Patrick and a disastrous date with a Nice Guy classmate named Dallas. (I am pretty sure we have all been on this date in some shape or form.) Helms nails the awkward horror of having to sit through the World’s Worst Idea. In contrast, Nick and Megan work. They have so much in common, from life goals and philosophies to a love of terrible jokes to parents who instilled a love of STEM in them. And, oh yeah, that smokin’ attraction I keep mentioning. It all adds up to a relationship to root for, rules be damned.

Since this is a romance, you know there is a standard Black Moment where it all seems to fall apart, but readers will invest enough in Megan getting through the semester that it’s her happiness that matters over any HEA or HFN with Nick. Fortunately for the couple, and for us, happiness and togetherness are along the same trajectory.

I’d had sex before, of course. I liked it, found it enjoyable and fun. But with Nick…I wanted to savor every step of this. Not just rush into it because we were both horny. He felt different to me, special.

Nick and Megan’s story feels different and special, too.


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Originally published on HeroesandHeartbreakers.Com

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