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Giffin tackles temptation in `Heart`

London: Emily Giffin tackles a familiar literary topic — that of temptation — in her latest novel, ‘Heart of the Matter.’ It comes in the form of a dedicated single mother, Valerie Anderson, whose 6-year-old son is injured in a horrific accident.

Dr. Nick Russo is a caring, virtuous and handsome paediatrician who is so sensitive and nurturing that when he and Valerie become attracted to one another, it seems natural and inevitable. Nick is married to Tessa, the love of his life, who is a stay-at-home mom to their two adorable children. Will Nick`s commitment to his family be enough to stop him from succumbing to Valerie`s charms? It`s a well-worn plotline, and the book threatens to be another cheesy, chick-lit weeper.

But Giffin has always been too intelligent to go down that path, and in "Heart of the Matter," she again uses her great wit and gift of storytelling to weave a tale that`s nuanced, empathetic and, at times, heartbreaking, without the clichéd villains and victims, and unnecessary melodrama. She also does it with her typical humour, and even brings back a few characters from her first novel, "Something Borrowed," as supporting players.

Valerie and Nick don`t set out to cheat on Tessa, and Tessa doesn`t plan to drive away her husband. Everyone starts out with good intentions — and everyone knows where that can lead.

Like real life, ‘Heart of the Matter’ doesn`t wrap up neatly: Decisions are made that are both troubling and understandable. That`s one reason the book is so engaging. Giffin makes readers identify with the characters, even if they don`t agree with their actions. Matters of the heart are always complicated, and Giffin deftly shows you why.

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