Heart & Seoul
Author: Jen Frederick
Publication Date: May 25, 2021
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.