Where I’m Home (The Aoife O’Reilly series #2) by Erin Bowlen blurb:
It’s been three years since Aoife O’Reilly decided to leave her life in Ballyclara behind.
With a new career and a new man in her life, Aoife is seemingly at peace with her choice. However, when a phone call comes to let her know someone close to her has passed away, Aoife finds herself rushing back to Ireland.
Confronted by all the ghosts she thought she put in her past, Aoife now has to determine where her home really is: New York or Ireland?
Book 1: All That Compels the Heart review
I feel the need to preface this review with a couple of things before getting started.
Last year, I was approached by the author to review a free copy of All That Compels the Heart. At the time, the book was a self published, standalone story. During the review I gushed about the characters and the relationships and the setting – all of which were amazing. However, I rated it 3 stars for two reasons.
Firstly, the editing job was not great (although I have heard that it has since been edited properly). And secondly, the ending was crazy abrupt. One minute you’re on the edge of your seat, hearts in your eyes, waiting for something to happen. The next moment, the book ends. I honestly thought I had an incomplete copy. It was my most hated ending of all the books I read last year because there was no closure. However, I said in my review that if there was ever a sequel written, I would change my rating.
Friends, I am changing my rating.
For transparency purposes, I want to let you know that the author has NOT reached out to let me know there is a sequel. I found it by accident when I was looking up something else. I purchased a copy of this myself because I wanted to see where the story went. And thankfully, I was not disappointed.
If you have ever been in the mood for a mildly-dramatic (yet wholesome), sparks-fly, enemies to lovers, slow-burn romance – this is the duology you have been waiting for.
The author does a really great job of reminding you what had happened in the first book, without going into too much detail. Sure, there is a mild info dump at the start, but considering the first book was almost 800 pages and a lot of things go down, I thought it was worth it. (I also read the first book in April 2019, so it has been 18 months since I finished it.) But the parts that are done really well are throughout the story. Aoife and Michael (the two MCs) are sitting in a garden at one point and there is a throwaway line about remembering when they had fixed it up. As soon as I read that, I remembered them building it together with their friends. The scenes in both books are so evocatively written that you can’t help but be transported back to them.
The romance (ahh, the romance). Where this book starts (and with how the previous one ended), you can’t help but fear the worst for the two main characters. And to be honest, there’s very little actual romance in this story. Their relationship is told through light touches and longing stares, recalling fond memories and warning looks from friends and family. And the guilt (ahh, the guilt). While the shouting matches and temper flares are also less in this one, you get to see how both MCs have matured. And that is something lovely to behold.
The only thing I was sad about in this book are two things, neither of which really take away from the story, but rather add to the drama.
There is cheating in this story. It’s less physical cheating, and more emotional cheating – although I’m not saying one is better than the other, I’m just letting you know. Both, Aoife and Michael, have new partners, and when their lives force them back together… Well, you can guess what happens. Of course, this also means unintended casualties in the mix, which isn’t great for either party. Hence the guilt, above.
The second part I wasn’t so in love with is the death of one of the side characters from book one. This character was one of my favourites, as they were for both MCs. But I think the biggest part for me in this wasn’t the death so much, it was the lack of active grieving. There is talk of grief in the story, but it’s very superficial. As someone who has personally lost a parent in their mid-30’s, I guess I wanted something deeper.
I also just wanted to say that the editing in this is better in this. However, there were still a few moments where I raised an eyebrow at a spelling error. This is all totally forgivable. I guess I was more inclined to notice it because of my experience with book 1.
Is this story perfect? No. Would I read another six books if they were published? Absolutely.
Aoife and Michael’s story has elements of that old school, star-crossed lovers trope. The ones where they very rarely get a happy ending. I can absolutely say that this book gives them more of an ending they deserve. Also, I’m just super glad that the author did write this.
The Aoife O’Reilly series is a beautiful adult fiction drama. It is filled with amazingly in-depth characters and many heartfelt moments. The scenery is vivid and descriptive without being over the top or excessive. The series is set in a small village in Ireland, with lots of village-esque drama. I would recommend to fans of Beth O’Leary, Tilly Bagshawe and Anita Notaro.