Book Review: Crooked Hearts by Nikki Magennis

I first read Nikki Magennis a few months ago when I picked up Best Erotic Romance (edited by Kristina Wright, see here to purchase). Her story, ‘Dawn Chorus’, which closed that anthology, was one of, if not the, standouts. So when Nikki put a call out for reviews (and a free copy) of her self-published anthology Crooked Hearts, I couldn’t resist.

And I wasn’t disappointed. Nikki writes elegantly and poetically, a deep sense of both eroticism and romance, and also just the right amount of the grit of reality that doesn’t revel in it, but acknowledges that it is there and affects the way characters perceive the world.

There are touches of bondage and restraint (a creative, theatrical take in ‘Catch Me If You Can’) and submission to pain, as well as the more overt depictions (‘Under His Hand, I Blossom’ especially, an intoxicating D/s story on a mountain hike), and always, there are deep, intense connections between the characters, bonds forged in only a few sentences. Also present are the deeps aches of want and desire – the opening story ‘At the Break of Day’ especially brings this out, as does ‘St Hunna the Holy Washerwoman’, which also ventures into magical realism without quite crossing into the fantastical.

Erotica it definitely is, but it is not all idealised situations and sex. Characters live in intense relation to each other – the neighbours in ‘Dawn Chorus’, the couple in ‘St Hunna’, even the doctor and waitress in ‘Save Me a Bite’ who encounter each other in a diner. The intensity was only increased by Nikki’s use (for the most part) of first person POV. There is the sex that doesn’t happen, the sex that we want and don’t get, as well as the moments of finding each other. There is also the humour – Dublin-set ‘Picking Apples in Hell’ is particularly funny, and ‘Night Song’, told entirely in dialogue, uses the device to great effect.

I like an anthology that places its stories conscious of the relationship to the others. Crooked Hearts begins with ‘At the Break of Day’ and ends with ‘Dawn Chorus’, which seems very fitting, not only in the time frame of the early hours of the day, but also the desperate need of the first piece contrasted with the deep satisfaction found in the last.

What can I say? I thoroughly recommended Crooked Hearts, and am looking forward to reading more of Nikki’s work.

Crooked Hearts can be purchased at:

Read more about Nikki Magennis and her work at her author website.