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Heartifact by Aisling Mancy

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Harper Kidd is a highly respected marine archaeologist. Yet, with the economy in a slump, he’s trapped working in an oil company’s exploration division.

Now, at the ripe age of thirty, Harp is disgusted with his employer’s damage to the undersea world he loves, tired of his ATM-card-filching ex, and tormented by beautiful dreams of an undersea lover. It’s time for a change and when his best friend, Stick, pleads with him to assist on a deep-sea dig in the Mediterranean, he jumps at the chance.

Harper’s spirits are high when they discover the ruins of an ancient civilization, and soar to the heavens when they discover a statue of an ancient pelora, a mysterious hybrid creature said to mediate between the worlds of reality and fantasy—and the very lover who holds the starring role in his dreams.

When the crew discovers the site is teeming with unexploded ordnance from the conflicts in the Middle East, and the excavation turns deadly, Harper must choose between saving his best friend and saving the pelora he’s fallen in love with.

I advocate for abused youth and the net proceeds of this novella go to The Trevor Project (US), le Refuge (France), and Arcigay (Italy) to benefit those youth. Please help me support them.

Title: Heartifact
Author: Aisling “Ash” Mancy
Length: 20k word Novella
Pre-order date: 11/11
Release date: 11/24
Publisher: Men Over the Rainbow
Languages: English, French, Italian

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Review by Elaine White

Book – Heartifact

Author – Aisling Mancy

Star rating – ★★★★☆

No. of Pages – 88

Cover – Nice

POV – 3rd person, one character

Would I read it again – Maybe

Genre – LGBT, Romance, Archaeological, Contemporary, Fantasy

This was an interesting one for me. I’ve only ever read one book by the author before and it wasn’t a resounding success, so I was hesitant and unsure about what I’d find, though the blurb intrigued me. This one was a story of two halves, the first being a little more unsure than the second, which really picked up the story and ran with it.

First, I’m going to run through the cons, because I want them out of the way.

I feel slightly cheated by the length, as it’s only 88 pages and the story didn’t begin until 5% then ended at 97%. That’s a total of 8% of the story that I missed, which it could have used to round up the ending in a less abrupt way.

There was a lot of confusion in the first few pages, what with the mass amount of metaphors and brand names. I’m also not a fan of the theme that is so common in the genre of introducing the character by using their full name as the first words of the story. It’s a pet bug of mine. Beyond that, the brand news bugged me because I have no idea what Sperrys (shoes?) and the Seamaster (watch?) are, and although it was instantly made clear that it was shoes, kicked off, and a watch that told the time, it was kind of frustrating at the same time.

Another pet hate was the sexism of this comment which totally rubbed me up the wrong way → “a woman without a vagenda.” I shouldn’t even have to explain why that is wrong.

There’s also a moment where Harper mentions Atlantic out of nowhere, claiming that someone else was bringing it up, even though they didn’t. It was confusing.

I would have liked an identifying marker – italics or otherwise – to separate the dreams from reality because it was often confusing which was which.

Oh, and there was a serious misuse of ship and boat throughout. Now, if there’s one thing that proper divers, archaeologists, marine archaeologists, shipmates and such can’t stand it’s when someone messes up and calls their ship a boat. Yet, Harper makes this mistake countless times and is never corrected.

I have to say that the story follows the blurb like a paint by numbers because you get exactly what the blurb tells you to expect in that precise order.

But, by the halfway point, they’re on the ship and ready to get started with the excavation and that’s when the story really kicks off. So let’s explore the pros.

First off, I liked Harper as a character. He was relatable and believable both as a lonely man, a marine archaeologist and as the leader of the team at the excavation site. He had the attitude, the knowledge, and the demeanor to handle being in charge without floundering at the first hurdle or being afraid to challenge the opinions of his peers. He somehow manages to keep his personal life private on the ship, while doing his job to the best of his abilities and holding out hope for something that he’s been told is impossible.

I liked Sticks, who was a strong female and not too butch like some women are in MM stories.

There is a great balance between the dreams and reality, with Harper admitting that it’s difficult to separate them first thing after waking, but without the complication of him being nuts enough to force the others to believe that they could be ‘real’.

The authenticity and incredible detail of the excavation is what really woke me up to this story. Before that, I was bordering on a 2 or 3 star rating, because I just wasn’t feeling the passion, the excitement or the chemistry between Pelora. But once Harper got onto the ship and they began working, it all became real and tangible, allowing us readers to see the work they were doing, how the revelations affected Harper’s moods and his feelings for Pelora.

In the end, while the ending was abrupt, it was a great way to end the story. I liked the choices Harper made, the reasons for them and loved that he had to choose between sense, reality, and friendship or something that might not even be real but felt intense and fulfilled all of his deepest needs and dreams. I’d definitely have liked to have seen more, but perhaps in a second short? Something where we can follow Harper into the next phase and see how it happens. It felt a little up in the air, at the end of this one, because there was no guarantee that it would work or what might happen if Harper even realized what had happened. I would have liked some hint of something simple, even something as small as Harper smiling or feeling relief.

Overall, it was a good story with a dodgy start. I might read it again, but I won’t be reading the beginning when I’m already tired as I did today, because it’s just not exciting enough to keep my interest until the halfway mark.

Meet Aisling Mancy

Ash lives, most of the time, on the West Coast of the United States. Ash writes adult fantasy, science fiction, adult romance, and fiction for gay young adults as C. Kennedy.

Raised on the mean streets and back lots of Hollywood by a Yoda-look-alike grandfather, Ash doesn’t conform, doesn’t fit in, is epic awkward, and lives to perfect a deep-seated oppositional defiance disorder. In a constant state of fascination with the trivial, Ash contemplates such weighty questions as If time and space are curved, then where do all the straight people come from? When not writing, Ash can be found taming waves on western shores, pondering the nutritional value of sunsets, appreciating the much-maligned dandelion, unhooking guide ropes from stanchions, and marveling at all things ordinary.

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