Review: A Not So Hollow Heart

A Not So Hollow Heart
A Not So Hollow Heart by Sharon Maria Bidwell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted to like this one a lot more than I actually did. I had some problems with the character building and scant world building, surprisingly too much sex and not enough plot. I felt the entire story was crammed into a short novella when it needed more breadth to make it work. The outline of a decent to good book is there but I felt mostly disappointed with the outcome.

Mason lost his lover during the zombie apocalypse and he’s vowed never to love again in this crazy world. Losing someone is just too hard to take in a world torn apart by zombies and uncertain survival. That doesn’t mean he’s lost all his compassion though and he’s moved to help a dying man found locked in a cage. Kyle has known his share of horrors and just wants to try to move beyond his own personal horrors. Two wounded men trying to find peace in a world turned upside down may just find it in each other.

The story, at the core, is that of a hurt man trying to move on with a new lover. Nominally set in a post-apocalyptic world featuring zombies, the classic romance is still the heart of the plot. I struggled with this one because I liked parts of the story and really disliked others. I liked the beginning quite a bit, but wanted much more atmosphere. I wanted the story to include solid world building instead of throwing in familiar zombie details that felt almost lazy. The lack of world building was frustrating and contributed to the feel of a longer story shoved into a shorter space. If expanded, I felt the story could have really developed much better.

As a short novella, things had to move at a quick pace. The beginning scenes introduce the reader to Mason, a loner who’s still grieving for his lost partner and determined not to care about anyone or anything in this world ever again. He rescues Kyle while on a supply trip and immediately has a very lengthy sex dream about his lost partner who turns into the rescued Kyle giving Mason oral sex in the dream. To start with, I am not a fan of dream sex sequences. I’m also not a fan of these scenes going on forever. This particular scene went on for 8 pages (out of 77) and I was very bored well before the scene ended. I found it ridiculous that Mason would be attracted to a half starved, half dead man that couldn’t walk, speak or communicate within moments of their meeting. The scene felt disconnected to me and thrown in to add more sex but I could have done without it entirely.

After that things picked up for me somewhat as the plot focused more on Mason. I found him to be an interesting character, though I wasn’t sure why he was attracted to Kyle. Perhaps they were simply the last two gay people in their area? At the end of the world I guess you can’t be too choosy. Although the romance was the main plot, with the other zombie elements as secondary, I never really felt the chemistry or connection between Mason and Kyle. It feels forced, just like the ridiculous ending with Richard. I found this element to be over the top and again, unnecessary to move the plot forward.

Overall it’s an ok story but several elements bothered me. I love a good romance during zombie apocalypse story but this felt more like a standard romance that just happened to use zombies as a backdrop. In addition to a truncated story to fit a short novella length, it’s a fine read but nothing memorable or something I’d recommend.

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One thought on “Review: A Not So Hollow Heart

  1. Tam says:

    At the end of the world I guess you can’t be too choosy.

    OMG, I snickered out loud in my office. Sometimes you do wonder if it’s a “love of convenience” rather than anything real. But as you said, if you’re going to get eaten by zombies anytime, just run with it and don’t ask questions.

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