Review: Kaleidoscope Hearts by Claire Contreras

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I went into Kaleidoscope Hearts with huge expectations. I'm not even sure why. But for some reason, between the cover (gorgeous) and the synopsis (so, so good) and the reviews (gushing), I had it in my mind that it was going to be one of those books that just blew me away and I would totally love it. I realize it's not fair to go into any book with those kind of expectations. That's not allowing the book to stand on its own and be judged for what it is. Instead I'm now trying not to judge it against what I expected/wanted it to be.

Kaleidoscope Hearts is the story of Estelle (Elle) and Oliver. Oliver is best friends with Elle's older brother, Vic, and has been a part of Elle's life since childhood. As they mature there are mutual feelings of attraction but both consider a relationship impossible, mainly because Elle is "Vic's little sister" and therefore off-limits. Several encounters over the years meant they both maintained that connection despite moving in separate ways. Now Oliver is back in Elle's life and she is conflicted by her feelings for him. Does she accept that any chance they had has passed and the timing was never right, or does she take yet another chance on the man she never forgot?

"It's a heart. They always break at some point. 
Sooner or later someone will come along 
and shatter it anyway - might as well be you."

Elle and Oliver both had qualities that I liked but I also found them both to be plenty frustrating at times. Particularly Elle. Despite the fact that it had been years since they first connected (9 years, I think?), Elle continued to judge Oliver by the person he was then. It was as if he was unable to be all that she wanted when he was a young man of only 19-20 and she continued to hold that against him even now, when he is a 28 year old man. As if it were unthinkable that he could possibly have changed at all. She was certainly in a different place in her life at that point, but I felt she continued to judge Oliver so harshly. There was also a maturity (or, rather, immaturity) issue with Elle. This was a woman in her early/mid 20's but some of her actions smacked of a teenager. She would do/say things specifically to make Oliver jealous... and then be surprised or angry when he got jealous. It just smacked of high school antics/drama and gave their relationship a one-step-forward-two-steps-back feel. Lastly, Elle was possibly the most obtuse character ever when it came to Oliver's feelings for her. Here was a man who was actively pursuing her, was plainly interested, was crazy about her and wasn't quiet about it, but Elle always seemed confused about his feelings for her. I understand that some of that could be because of their history together, but come on... this guy was knocking himself out to spend time with her and make her happy, begging her for "just one date." Does he need to hire a skywriter? I often felt like Elle ran hot and cold with Oliver and it was frustrating at times.

As for Oliver, my only real issue was his continual feelings of not being good enough for Elle. Lines like 'that made me want to be a better man for her, even though I knew I couldn't' or 'she looked at me like I was somebody, even though I knew I wasn't' left me a little confused. I didn't feel it was adequately explainedwhy Oliver felt that way. Besides that, it was impossible not to fall for such a charmer. :)

"We live in a galaxy of our own. 
Where the storms pass, and the light fades, 
and everything ceases to exist except for us."

With all that being said, I don't mean it to sound like I didn't like Kaleidoscope Hearts. I really did enjoy this story and was definitely pulling for Oliver and Elle. I think it would have been easy for Contreras to make Elle bitter and cynical after what she experienced (no spoilers) but she never resorted to that. Elle's grief and feelings of acceptance and moving forward rang completely true and never felt false or rushed. I loved the ease that was between Oliver and Elle (when she wasn't doubting his feelings for her). They were friends and so much more. With shared childhood memories, they were able to tease and bicker like the friends they were, but there was also amazing chemistry. I also loved how open they could be with one another, especially when they had their dates where they asked each other question after question. There shared things with each other that they shared with no one else. I loved seeing them connect like that.

Kaleidoscope Hearts was a sweet/sexy second-chance romance. I will definitely read more by Contreras because her writing is beautiful. And when I do, I will go into it with reasonable expectations. :)

Every second counts. Live in this moment. 
This is life. This is what matters.

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