Jack of Hearts is a novel of literary fiction told from the point of view of a small, aristocratic dog named Shimoni. This imaginative first novel explores themes of fidelity and honor and offers a fresh perspective of Italian culture and amore.
Shimoni's passion for Italian cuisine and Elvis are rivaled only by his devotion to his masters, a Roman Count and Countess. However, his discovery that Il Conte is having an affair imperils his comfortable life and plunges Shimoni into a quest to rekindle his masters' love and preserve his home.
The path to reconciliation leads Shimoni from the bustling streets of Rome to his owners' rustic villa in the Italian countryside, where he outwits man and beast to save his family, all while making time to fall in love and sample the local Chianti. Shimoni's (mis)adventures yield poignant observations about the nature of love and longing, and the soul's ability to find satisfaction.
An intoxicating blend of adventure, romance, and joi de vivre, Jack of Hearts will appeal to literary devotees, Italophiles and dog-lovers. Author, Robin F. Gainey dishes up a sensuous story with plenty of heart, and empathy for the human, as well as the canine condition.
“A wonderful, funny and touching novel. Shimoni is not simply a dog, he is our guide; he is our friend. Stay by his side, stay with his heart, and he will take you places you haven’t been, and show you things you haven’t seen: after reading Jack Of Hearts you will understand the true depths of love and devotion. –Garth Stein, The Art Of Racing In The Rain
“This novel has freshness, originality and a huge heart of gold. Shimoni is one of the most unforgettable narrators I’ve ever read, and does he have a story to tell! I loved everything about this book.” –Susan Wiggs, NY Times Best-Selling Romance Novelist, Just Breathe
“This is a most heartfelt and extraordinary work for a first novel. Ms. Gainey moves easily out of the realities of our everyday lives into an unexpected turn of canine spirit. It is an intriguing and wonderful read.” –Lynn Andrews, NY Times Best-Selling Author of Medicine Woman
Caring what someone thinks is no substitute for simply caring, I thought.
Greta gave my face a lick. The warm breath in my ear made the coarse hair along the peak of my back stand on end. Duty bound, her male responded to my instinctive but harmless reaction and we met nose to nose. I made the first move, turning to note the stranger’s name, always displayed on the opposite end. The dog was completely unsympathetic. He lowered his head and set his jaw. Swinging around behind me, his posture of impolite familiarity betrayed him as more lupine than canine. I snapped a perfunctory warning.
At this, the Contessa lifted me into her arms to prevent a small dog from taking a sizeable challenge. I whined an objection as Greta and her beau fell in line together and trotted away. A legion of hopeful mutts brought up the distant rear and they all retreated behind a clump of early poppies.
I could have tackled the boorish male. Stature was no match for dazzling wit. Greta’s male was a clear example of inbreeding: brains, the first to go. Assuming I ascribed anything other than casual friendship to Greta was folly. She was, after all, much too tall to ever consider any maneuver more serious than an affectionate touch of the nose. I sneezed in disbelief and swiped my nose across the petal-soft leather of the Contessa’s expensive gloves. The threat of destitution weakened me more than the brief activity. I was glad to have the relief of a ride as we made our way home.
At via Ripetta, on the corner across from our apartment, we paused for a break in the traffic. A tall, well-dressed man approached in a waft of cloves and tobacco. He stood close to the Contessa, the arm of his leather jacket grazing the cashmere sleeve of the woman’s sweater, as he gave me a dark-eyed wink.
The man raised his eyebrows and smiled. “Ciao.”
“Buon giorno, Signore.” The Contessa, as any Roman woman would do, looked straight into the eyes of her suitor, a gentle flush betraying her pleasure at the attention.
When the traffic cleared enough for passage, the stranger took the Contessa gently by the arm, guiding her to the safety of the opposite sidewalk.
“Grazie,” said the Contessa.
I gazed up at the woman, raising one ear to her voice. It was strong and measured. She might as well have said, “I am worth a look, aren’t I?”
The man tipped his hand to a dimple at the corner of his mouth and nodded. “Grazie lei, bella.”
Blush in full bloom, the Contessa was in the middle of a shy smile when the Count turned the corner in front of her. He stopped short, dropping his head to look over the top of his sunglasses. Shoulders set, he stepped between the stranger and the Contessa. He took her arm where the man left off and started her up the street.
“Chi e?” the Count said.
The Contessa looked directly at the Count, her words soft-spoken and her eyes wide and dewy. “Someone who noticed me.”
“I’m sure.” The Count looked in the direction of the stranger, not at the Contessa.
“Ma, caro,” she said, “niente—” Sentence unfinished, she examined Il Conte as though he were as strange as the man who made her face color. A sly grin crept across her mouth as in discovery of something long forgotten.
Her word was audible to only me. “Geloso.”