Review: Heart & Seoul (Jen Frederick)

Heart & Seoul
Author: Jen Frederick

Publication Date: May 25, 2021
Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Women’s Fiction, New Adult
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★


From USA Today bestselling author Jen Frederick comes a heart-wrenching yet hopeful romance that shows that the price of belonging is often steeper than expected.

As a Korean adoptee, Hara Wilson doesn’t need anyone telling her she looks different from her white parents. She knows. Every time Hara looks in the mirror, she’s reminded that she doesn’t look like anyone else in her family—not her loving mother, Ellen; not her jerk of a father, Pat; and certainly not like Pat’s new wife and new “real” son.

At the age of twenty-five, she thought she had come to terms with it all, but when her father suddenly dies, an offhand comment at his funeral triggers an identity crisis that has her running off to Seoul in search of her roots.

What Hara finds there has all the makings of a classic K-drama: a tall, mysterious stranger who greets her at the airport, spontaneous adventures across the city, and a mess of familial ties, along with a red string of destiny that winds its way around her heart and soul. Hara goes to Korea looking for answers, but what she gets instead is love—a forbidden love that will either welcome Hara home…or destroy her chance of finding one.

If I had a relationship status with this book, it would say “It’s complicated.”

As an adoptee, I am always fascinated by books about adoptees. I’m always looking for something I can identify with in them. Heart & Seoul was a little different of an adoptee read for me since I’m not a Korean American adoptee. I connected with many thoughts Hara had, but obviously not all. I’ve read some information about what it means society wise to be a Korean adoptee a few times. In my early childhood, I spent a lot of time with two different families with white parents and Korean adopted children. I never really thought about how different their experience as adoptees would be compared with mine until I reconnected with one of them through social media. Their thoughts and feelings about their adoption are way different than mine. I knew how they grew up and wanted to better understand their feelings. That was one of the reasons I was excited to read Heart & Seoul, along with the fact that I am a fan of Jen Frederick’s previous book.

Heart & Seoul was an emotional read from the start with Hara losing her adopted father. Her desire to search for her birth parents, and the reasons why, were easy to relate to. The journey she went on to Seoul was fascinating. I loved learning about Seoul, the customs, and some of the history of adoption there. Hara’s emotional journey was fraught with ups and downs. Her losses and gains were tough and had me hoping for a happy ending for her.

Since I brought up happy ending, I want to point out that this NOT a romance novel. You’re not going to come away with an HEA or HFN with this book. I didn’t realize this going into this book. Honestly, the ending is why I didn’t give this book 5 stars. I needed more resolution. Things ended too abruptly for me. The entire time I was reading Heart & Seoul, I kept thinking how different this book was from anything else I’ve read from Frederick — until I got to the drama and climax. That was exactly what I would expect from a Jen Frederick book. It shouldn’t have been shocking to me, but it was. That being said, I still enjoyed this book and learned a lot from it.

20 thoughts on “Review: Heart & Seoul (Jen Frederick)”

  1. I did not know you were adopted Deanna. That would definitely give you a connection to this story. I have read a few books about children adopted from other countries making a pilgrimage for whatever reason to visit the country of their birth or even meet up with birth parents. This sounds like a good story to educate readers. Great review Deanna.

    1. Yes, I think there are a lot of Korean American adoptees who could identify with much of this book. Thanks!

  2. I am glad I read this review. Once again, they are trying to pass women’s fiction off as romance. I am ok, if I know what to expect, but I get frustrated when I am deceived.

    1. I don’t know if it is because all of her other books are romance? I do believe it was in both romance and women’s fiction on NG, but I could be wrong.

  3. Oh wow! Thank you so much for mentioning that this is women’s fiction and not a romance with a HEA. It sounds like an emotional experience and I can see why you wanted for the MC to have a happy ending. I’ll still read it because I’m interested in the cultural aspects of it, but thank you for the warning!

    1. You’re welcome! There are definitely enough elements of romance, but it’s really about the journey…and that no HEA thing. All of the cultural aspects were very interesting. I hope you enjoy it.

  4. I definitely would have been thrown off by a non-HEA ending, as it looks like it would be a romance. I’m glad there were still things that worked for you, though. Great review!

  5. I’m glad you enjoyed it Deanna!!! But I must admit I expected this to be a romance, with a HEA. Not sure if I’ll pick it up.

    1. It has a romance, just not the HEA. I’m wondering if there is going to be a sequel.

  6. It is surprising to hear that this is not a romance novel, because the synopsis definitely gives those vibes. How wonderful to find a book that you can connect with on some level. I am not sure that I have seen many books that effectively deal with adoption. I am intrigued to read it as well and knowing that it is not going to wrap up neatly before reading will prepare me. <3

    1. There’s a romance, just not a final HEA or HFN. It was kind of jarring. I’m wondering now if there will be a sequel.

  7. I must admit I was expecting this to be a romance, so thanks for the heads up about the no HEA. I love the cultural aspects that seem to be explored in the book and it sounds like quite the emotional experience. Lovely review. 😀

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