Doran O’Seanain lives amongst the soot and choking foulness of the Iole City coal mines and he’s losing the battle against the push for a better life. As Foreman, he’s led a two-year strike against the city’s oppressive and violent leader, Archon Bryson, and to some extent the strike has been successful. But Doran’s people, the coal miners and their families, are struggling and he isn’t sure how much more any of them can endure. The mines have taken everything from Doran and the only thing he has left is the desperate hope he might be able to make things better for others.
After an attempted rebellion goes wrong, Doran finds himself wounded and on the doorstep of Nathaniel Morganstern’s apothecary. Nathaniel is kind and offers a level of peace that Doran has not known since his wife’s murder. But the man has secrets and in Doran’s life, secrets can get you killed. In the end, there may be a truth between them that is too terrible to endure. And with the Archon closing on in Doran and his people from all sides, death may come more swiftly than anyone expects.
So I discovered Heart of Dust while looking for books to fit our Self-Published Book Week here at Joyfully Jay. The plot sounded more than intriguing and I decided to try it and I’m glad I did. Heart of Dust is well written and hooked me from the first page. The author has done an excellent job of conveying the poverty and danger in which the coal mining families of Iole City are forced to live. Death is constant and suffering a way of life. But it’s the only job for the poor and the conditions are beyond horrific. Doran’s strike is well intended, but since the murder of his wife, Doran has struggled to be the leader his people need. His desperation and despondency are palpable and I found it impossible not to feel for him. Nathaniel is more mysterious and we know his secrets can’t be good ones. But when he and Doran are together, they have a natural chemistry that is both sweet and engaging. This romance is a slow burn to be sure, but if feels more realistic because of that.
The end of Heart of Dust feels a bit predictable and there are somewhat obvious reveals that lack the finesse of the first three-quarters of the book. Still, these climatic moments are written with a taunt edginess that gave them some depth. The secret between Nathaniel and Doran is a bit far-fetched and I feel as though given the nature of it, it would be impossible for these characters to move forward as a couple. But the author does a decent job of leaving things unsettled between them. There’s no automatic resolution and I’ll be interested in seeing how things evolve in the sequel, which is due out in 2019.
On the whole, Heart of Dust was an excellent read. There’s a palpable sense of time and place and the world building is strong without becoming excessive. Nathaniel and Doran are a complicated couple and their connection is built upon an unstable foundation indeed and I got the impression romance will be a hard fought battle for them despite their chemistry. I’m very much looking forward to the sequel to this book and I think anyone who likes their romances a bit more complex will enjoy Heart of Dust.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Self-Published Book Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of the great prize packs of self-published books donated by some very generous authors. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a Kindle Fire filled with Dreamspun Desires/Beyond books, plus a 3-month subscription!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Self-Published Book Week here, including a list of all the books in this week’s prize.