Category Archives: The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae

Review: The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

Title: The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


For fans of Josie Silver’s One Day in December, The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is a wholly original, charismatic, and uplifting novel that no reader will soon forget.

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live. She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that—just in time—saved her life. Now, finally, she can be a normal twenty-eight-year-old. She can climb a mountain. Dance. Wait in line all day for tickets to Wimbledon.

But first, she has to put one foot in front of the other. So far, things are as bloody complicated as ever. Her relationship with her mother is at a breaking point and she wants to find her father. Then there’s Lennox, whom Ailsa loved and lost. Will she ever find love again?

Her new heart is a bold heart. She just needs to learn to listen to it. From the hospital to her childhood home, on social media and IRL, Ailsa will embark on a journey about what it means to be, and feel, alive. How do we learn to be brave, to accept defeat, to dare to dream?

From Stephanie Butland, author of The Lost for Words BookshopThe Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae will warm you from the inside out.


The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland is a bittersweet yet heartening novel.

Ailsa Rae and her mum Hayley have been planning for the worst when Ailsa finally receives the heart transplant she desperately needs. They are a devoted family of two since Ailsa’s biological father has never been a part of her life. But now the time has come for her to start living, she and Hayley are at odds over Ailsa’s plans for the future. Hayley agreed to move out and let her daughter live on her own, but she is having difficulty letting go. And it does not help that Ailsa still relies on her blog readers to help her make her decisions. But the real sticking point between mother and daughter is Ailsa’s quest to learn the identity of the bio dad who deserted them years earlier.  Can their once close relationship survive the changes facing Ailsa and Hayley?

Ailsa is a delightful woman in her late twenties who is finding it difficult to navigate her new life. Having lived for so long facing the very real possibility she will die before getting a new heart, Ailsa is a bit adrift as she tries to plan for her future.  She has a degree but with no work experience, is she employable? Can she make it living on her own in the flat she has always shared with Hayley? These questions are just the tip of the iceberg as Ailsa attempts to figure out her future.

With so much uncertainty lying ahead of her, Ailsa focuses on the things she knows she wants to do. She is determined to live a healthy life and one of her first decisions is to sign up for dance lessons. She is also enjoying an unexpected friendship with a celebrity who has recently undergone a transplant. Over the course of several months, their relationship has the possibility of turning romantic, but is Ailsa ready to fall in love?

Through a series of poignant flashbacks, Ailsa’s relationship with childhood friend and former boyfriend Lennox Douglas tugs on the heartstrings.  Their teenage romance ended after they went off to uni, but they eventually reconnect. Ailsa and Lennox shared a close bond as her health worsens and she must now reconcile how differently their medical situations turned out for each of them.

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is a stirring novel that offers a realistic portrait of Ailsa’s life both before and after a life sustaining heart transplant. Her reactions to her change in circumstances ring true as do her conflicted feelings about other people’s expectations. Spanning the first year after Ailsa’s transplant, Stephanie Butland has penned an emotionally compelling and surprisingly upbeat novel of new beginnings.  A touching and humorous story that I absolutely loved highly recommend.

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Filed under Contemporary, Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Griffin, Stephanie Butland, The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae