Other Reviewers: Goodreads
I ran across this novel when a friend on Goodreads gave it a 5-Star review. This is a first time read of this author (although really two authors), Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane. From what I can tell, this is their first book and was recently published this month. The Druid Stone is hard to actually set a genre, a little horror, a pinch of suspense, and a cup of history. What amazes me and speaks to the high quality of writing is how seamlessly the authors 1) work together and 2) write a united tight story.
Based on Ms. Belleau’s blog, she has a degree in History and Irish studies, so we can certainly see where the strength of history comes through in The Druid Stone. Her love of gory stories and urban fantasy account for the aspects of horror we find in the novel. A quick tour of Violetta Vane’s Goodread’s page gives us insight that she studies philosophy and medieval Spanish literature, which again we can see facets in The Druid Stone.
What does this mean? Two heads are better than one!
We begin by seeing that Sean O’Hara is in psychological trouble: he can’t stop dreaming about a young man’s violent and horrific murder. Drugs, psychoanalysis, support of his aunt; nothing is helping, his psychosis is only getting worse. He needs help and quickly before he goes mad. He hears of this druid, Cormac Kelly, who can possibly help. But when Sean gets to Ireland, Cormac refuses to help him, thinking that Sean is just one of those new age freaks. But with Cormac’s refusal, of course Sean gets in trouble and the adventure ensues.
Recently I have been reading almost exclusively male/male romances (since March), the few male/female romances I have read have often been a struggle to finish. I am not certain if it is my preferences that have changed or if it is just the selection process. As I have said before about erotica, male/male seems to suffer from the same abundance of more porn than plot problem. So when I find a book that actually has character development and hot sex, it is always a winner for me. .
Sean is someone who life has shat upon, but somehow he still has a positive attitude and a willingness to help others. He is half Cuban and half Irish (of Boston), never fully fitting into either side. In fact, the Irish side mostly has disowned him, his father assholian. He has traveled and backpacked around the world, fitting in everywhere, but never finding his place. Yet we see a poignant scene with Cormac’s family at a Druid holiday May Day fire festival (Beltane):
But now that he was here, he was happy. It wasn’t an uncomplicated kind of happy, but still. Something about the warm atmosphere, the way Cormac’s family teased him the same as they teased each other, fussed over him and brought him drinks, included him seamlessly in their conversation, just…recognized him.
This is something that recurs throughout the book and is tied to the theme. He finds with this Druid family a place where he finally feels comfortable with himself and feels accepted as who he is. I also loved the way Cormac describes Sean:
For Cormac, every touch was shadowed by regret and anger and desperation, although he tried not to show it. Sean was being so clear, so brave. Doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do, like he always did and always would do. Cormac could learn a lot from him.
Sean’s life is a history of violence, abuse, and drugs. A story that I will not go into to ruin any plot, but the fact that Cormac can describe Sean in this manner demonstrates Sean’s strength of character.
Cormac is the Druid and our Alpha male character of the book. He is dark and complicated; his former lover Michael was killed ten years before and he is still haunted by his death. He has not been in a serious relationship since, partly devoting his life to his work as a Druid. He has the calling, but there still seems to be something lacking, still torn by his past. We see his conflict in this quote as he reflects on Sean:
Cormac wanted that, that understated sense of self that Sean occupied against all odds. Cormac was a lot of things, took on the mantles of many labels, assumed the responsibilities and expectations of a lot of roles and perceptions all pieced together like a cubist portrait, but it had been a long time since he’d been able to just trust that under all that, there was something essential, too. Something he could hold onto, rely on.
He is alone in a crowd, surrounded by family, yet not letting anyone truly inside his heart.
To me, the theme is about belonging and finding happiness with yourself, your life and each other. A portion of this theme can be seen from a Spanish quote:
‘A sincere man am I / From the Land where palm trees grow’, and then ‘I’m a traveler to all parts, / And a newcomer to none.’”
Remember my quote for Sean about the family? Sean has traveled the world, and while he might be able to blend into the environment, he never felt like he belonged. This is juxtaposed to the quote above, which to me means that we should not be bound by one place or one aspect of ourselves. All of three of the main characters are so focused on certain aspects of their lives that they don’t see that they can belong anywhere, as long they are with someone special.
What is extraordinary is that we can all relate to this fear. How many of us have feared rejection either by strangers or our friends and family? Have you found that special person who you can just be with each other and feel at peace?
The writing. The story was fascinating and intense, the authors able to mix what could have been boring historical facts into exhilarating action. There were compelling reasons for our two heroes not to get together immediately, yet I did not feel the romance was drawn out.
What could be better?
There were times when there was too much description. But, I would rather have too much story than not enough. It did not deter from my enjoyment.
Overall, this was a wonderful book! It satisfied a taste I had for both male/male romance as well as historical/fantasy storylines. The writing was excellent and the character development and theme well defined and explored.
Well worth the read!