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Posted October 12, 2014
I received my copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: Solid 2.5 stars
The premise of the story definitely appealed to me. I liked the idea of meeting your soulmate while running away a life that has left you unfulfilled. Trevor was a believable lost soul and if we had any doubts while reading, the author has been kind enough to throw in flashbacks of his homophobic and a-hole brother to remind us. Darach comes across as a lonely and horny tree spirit who falls hopelessly for our American in Scotland.
As much as I liked the idea of finding love and acceptance, I felt the story was unfinished....or more along the lines of having no real beginning or end. I wanted more back story on Darach and Trevor and more development of their relationship. Due to the brevity of the story, they only spend to what amounts to less than 8 hours talking/having sex (in the wilds with only spit to ease the way I might add) with each other before everything falls a part and back together to spend forever after together. I'm not saying that insta-love doesn't work for me EVER, only that there's an expectation on my part for more context/background.
Maggie the bartender makes a great "sassy friend" and the insight she gives to Trevor had me shedding a few tears, but I felt the mention of his family on Skye was a complete waste as they were never featured in the story.
I would like to see more of Trevor/Darach story AND more from Coileain.
Posted October 2, 2014
I was provided a free copy of Heart of the Oak in exchange for an honest review.
I tend to enjoy books with paranormal or magical elements. There are certainly some themes I enjoy more than others, but I love to read a book and be taken away to a place that is not terribly unlike the real world and yet also one that involves some sort of cool fantasy element. So I was immediately smitten with the idea behind Heart of the Oak. How awesome it is to envision a world where guardian spirits live within trees and can take human form at night!
The prose in Heart of the Oak is poetic and the word choice is evocative. It brings about vivid imagery, and as I read the tale, I could visualize the setting that the author describes. And the story provides a strong sense of place. The area of Scotland in which Trevor finds himself is described so well. The setting of Scotland plays a key role in the story, and to me, it was a significant character in the book. I love it when a book has a strong sense of place that ultimately sets up a strong foundation for the story.
I tend to feel torn about prologues. Sometimes they can feel random and unnecessary. But other times they can be telling and integral to the book at large. And so I often have to resist a groan when I see that the book I am reading has a prologue. I know this is probably silly of me, but it is a reaction that I have on the regular. However! The prologue in this book was awesome. It set the tone for the book and reeled me in.
One of the things I enjoy most about a book is humor. Trevor was witty and funny. I also thought it was interesting how the prologue, told from Darach’s perspective, evoked an old world vibe--a voice from long ago--and yet when chapter one begins, we read from the contemporary and current voice of Trevor; this dichotomy made Trevor’s sense of humor stand out.
I liked Maggie and felt that her character added a necessary element of reason to the story. Her Scottish brogue was fun to read, even though as someone with zero life experience with Scottish brogues, I have no clue if it is authentic or not. Regardless, I felt Maggie was a refreshing part of the story.
This story was enjoyable, but there are unfortunately some aspects of it that were complicated to me. While I do appreciate the author’s writing style and descriptive word choice, there were times when the wording was awkward. For the most part the writing was lovely, but there were moments when it was challenging for me as a reader. It seemed to me to go back and forth between parts of the story that were truly graceful and felt natural to read, and other parts that felt more strained.
I think that one of the trickiest elements of writing a fantasy story must finding a balance between information that is explicit and information that is merely implied. And stories with paranormal or magical themes take a certain leap of faith by the reader. But at the same time, the author must find a way to answer the questions that may come up in the reader’s mind as she reads. If too much is left implied, things can end up being confusing. And there were moments when I felt confused when reading this tale.
I am a sucker for a good love story. And this was definitely a sweet love story. But I also found myself wishing I could read so many more details about the characters. I wanted to know more about Darach’s and Trevor’s lives, their backstories and personal histories. I also wanted to read more about their lives together as they met and got to know each other, and how they overcame cultural differences. And then I wanted to read more about how their future unfolded. It all seemed to progress so fast. And while I definitely am a big fan of sex in romances, I fear this novella needed more details added to the love story that happened between all of the sexing. In the end, I wished for more illuminations and elaborations on a number of levels.
Ultimately, I appreciate the clever story. Heart of the Oak was original. What a cool premise. And as a nature lover, I adore the idea of tree spirits, so this story is a sweet fantasy for me to imagine. I appreciate that the author conjured up this interesting tale.
Posted September 26, 2014
** spoiler alert ** (This story was provided free via the Goodreads Don't Buy my Love Read and Review program in return for an honest review.)
3.5 stars, rounded up
I thought this was charming, we meet Trevor who is the much neglected and set aside son/brother in a family that tolerates and marginalizes him. Even though it a short story the author was able to show us a lot of insights into his home life, the death of his father and the fact that his brother was just like his father and would continue to make his life miserable due to homophobia. I really liked how Trevor is running from "the closet" and really his family but had had the behaviors so ingrained from an early age that he was afraid of feeling anything that validated that he was gay. Another thing, the dreamlike setting and writing, it was ethereal, sensual and really impactful for such a short story. They each thought (and called) the other their dream. *sweet sigh*
The only problems I had with this book involved mainly the length. I really wanted to read more about them as people but since this was a short story and IMHO the sex/story ratio was definitely imbalanced there wasn't real estate for that. There was such connection along with the encounters that it worked, I just wanted to see more of the normal interaction. How they coped with the fact that Darach was tethered to his tree, how the magick was expanding in the world, etc. Definitely would love to read more about the other Oaks awakening in this universe.
Posted March 14, 2014
‘Heart of the Oak’ by Rory Ni Coileain – Ms. Rory has done it again, written a story so full of emotion and wonder and passion that it defies my meager attempts to properly describe how it affected me to read it.
Her characters are always ‘real’, in the sense that the reader can feel the emotions surrounding them, but the characters in ‘Heart of the Oak’ went a little further. The emotions experienced by Trevor and Darach were described in such a manner that actually I hurt for them. Fine, I admit it, I had tears welling up in three different scenes, darn it! What can I say? That’s just how amazing Ms. Rory’s characters are. And having a backdrop of a quiet loch on the Island of Skye just made the story more beautiful.
As for the story itself, I found it to be extremely complex. No, there was not a plot-line filled with twists and turns and villains. There was no need for that. Instead, this story was about understanding emotions, facing fears, learning to trust and the give and take of love.
If I have any complaints about the story, it would be the short length – but that’s okay, because I have faith that there will be more to come for this series (and these characters) in the future, and I for one can’t wait. This was a heart-rending, breathtaking tale of love, and I recommend it to everyone.