Hello loves and Happy Friday! Today, I’ll be sharing my review for ALL THAT COMPELS THE HEART by Erin Bowlen. This book is so full of HEART and I really hope you get to read it and love it as much as I do. I also have a really fun interview with Erin and a few of my favorite quotes from the book so don’t forget to stay until the end.
All That Compels the Heart is the story of Aoife O’Reilly’s unintentional journey towards self-discovery.
Aoife O’Reilly seemingly had the perfect life: a good job, successful boyfriend, and the two best friends a woman could ever ask for. However, when tragedy strikes, she begins to feel like her life is unraveling. After a visit to the monastic site of Glendalough brings her to the nearby charming village of Ballyclara, Aoife makes the bold decision to leave her friends and family in Dublin, and moves to the Irish countryside.
Purchasing the long-abandoned Aldridge Manor, she throws herself into the task of renovating the house with the help of local pub owner and contractor, Michal Flanagan. While Aoife begins to settle in well with the other villagers, she finds herself perpetually at odds with Michael. Aoife strives to find some common ground with him, but the more effort she puts into building a life in Ballyclara, the more she feels herself drifting apart from her friends and family back in Dublin.
Just as Aoife makes a choice between her life in Dublin and life in Ballyclara, a career opportunity in New York presents itself and she is left with the question: will she choose to stay in Ireland? Or should she take the job in New York and leave everything behind?
Beautifully Written, Engrossing, Heartfelt, and Profoundly Moving
All that Compels the Heart by Erin Bowlen is a heartfelt and profoundly moving novel about family, friendship, love, taking chances and chasing your dreams. It’s beautifully written, engrossing, and emotional. It was such a delightful read and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with Aoife.
This story is simply lovely! Even though it is quite lengthy with some slow moving parts and a few moments that I thought seemed a bit drawn-out, the overall storyline without a doubt touched my heart. Bowlen’s writing is gorgeous, elegant and compelling. I have never read anything by her before so I was impressed when I found myself wonderfully immersed into the story that I could easily experience what the characters feel. I also think Bowlen’s descriptions are vivid, dreamy, and absolutely breathtaking, I really had fun exploring all the beautiful places in Ireland that I personally cannot wait to visit someday.
The pacing is good and the plot is well-developed. Bowlen wonderfully blends interesting family drama, hilarious and sad moments, important life lessons, and realistic relationship. While the story isn’t romance heavy, there are still many swoony moments sprinkled here and there that made me smile. I loved the chemistry between Aoife and Michael and I totally rooted for them. The story is also not emotionally intense like I thought, but it still managed to make tear up a few times. And that ending… ouch! It made my heart ache so much leaving me absolutely desperate to find out what would happen next.
The characters are not always likable. Sometimes, they’re frustrating and annoying. Some of them even had my eyes rolling. But, it’s their flaws that make them incredibly relatable individuals who have interesting personalities and unique quirks. I adored Aoife with all my heart. I liked that she’s down-to-earth, caring, adorable, sweet, and has a big heart. She does make mistakes, but Aoife is such a lovable heroine that I felt so protective of her. Michael has such an intense and strong personality, yet I found myself very drawn to him. Yes, he’s quite stubborn, blunt, and acts kind of a jerk at times…But, he also has an amazingly charming and tender side. He’s kind, genuine, and loving. Michael is definitely the type of character that will slowly make you fall for him as you get to know him and once you do all bets are off!
The secondary characters like Paddy, Bex, Millie, Brendan, Connor, and the Flanagans are utterly charming and I really liked them. I thought they’re fascinating characters and some even made me laugh. The rest or those that I didn’t quite like … well they’re great characters too and definitely added intrigue to the story.
This book is a nice cozy read with the perfect combination of drama, adventure, humor, romance, and so much heart. Bowlen paints a beautifully relatable narrative of Aoife’s life experiences, struggles, and triumphs weaving together an intricate and believable story that will grip readers until the last page. The story explores elements of tragedy, grief, friendship, family, love, and self-discovery. It’s ultimately about finding yourself, appreciating life, and doing what truly makes your heart happy.
I had so much fun going on this lovely journey with Aoife. All that Compels the Heart is a gorgeous story with lovable characters, realistic life situations, and meaningful themes and lessons. Erin Bowlen is such a talented author with a very promising career and I absolutely recommend you add this book on your TBR now!
I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
You need to live a little, do something that will make you happy.
Promise me you will make the best of this world, because to my knowledge, you only get one try at it.
All that stuff in the books and the songs and the films are wrong. There’s no music playing or fireworks going off when you find the right one. There’s just his feeling deep down in your gut.
There was just this feeling in my gut that if I didn’t spend the rest of my life with her, that my life would be a whole lot sadder for it. I just knew that I needed her in my life and that I would do anything to make it happen.
Describe this book in 3 words – Engaging. Provocative. Inquisitive.
Have you always loved writing? – Yes. I’ve tried writing in many different forms (song-writing, poetry, academic writing) and I think I was drawn to all of them because of my curiosity in all things, and in fiction I found a platform within which all these forms function. I’ve had varied success with all of these forms of writing over the years (no one should ever read the angsty poetry of my teenage years, or the teeny-bopper songs of my pre-teen years), but I think I’ve finally found where I’m supposed to be with writing fiction.
What is you favorite part about being an author/writer? – The community. It’s a scary feeling when you start declaring yourself as a writer to the world, and what helped me get over that fear was the writing community I found through NaNoWriMo and, recently, through the #WritingCommunity on Twitter. It’s comforting to know that all writers have gone (or are going) through what I’m feeling, and I’ve found everyone to be really encouraging and supportive of one another.
Which authors have inspired your writing? – Diana Gabaldon – I love how much care and detail she puts into making her characters realistic. She isn’t afraid to make her characters have flaws, have them make decisions that her readers might not like, or generally put her characters through hell sometimes and then show how that affects their personalities and behaviour. Before reading “Outlander,” I had not come across characters that felt so real to me when I was reading them, and I haven’t found very many authors since who can make me feel as invested in their characters as Diana can.
J.R.R Tolkien – I have learned so much about world-building from Tolkien’s work. I know that his level of detail and description isn’t for everyone, but I still find myself going back to “The Hobbit” or “Lord of the Rings” just to read some of the descriptions he’s used and finding ways to engage all of my readers’ senses to make them feel as if the story is happening all around them.
Maeve Binchy – I’ve always felt a connection to Maeve’s novels because, growing up in an Irish-Canadian family, I’ve always felt a connection to my heritage and reading Irish authors was the closest I could come to finding stories that related to the kind of family dynamic I grew up in. Her novels were perfect for the pre-teen version of myself trying to navigate big topics, but still retaining that sense that everything was going to be alright in the end.
If there was a zombie apocalypse and you could only take 3 books with you, which ones will you choose? -I immediately thought of two ways to answer this question, based on two strategies of how to survive a zombie apocalypse. The first is based on the fact that I’m terrible at running, so I wouldn’t make it very far by running away from zombies, and having some hefty books to use to throw at the zombies to keep them away from me might come in handy. So I’d go for books like War & Peace (although I quite liked that, so I would be sad to lose it), Liddell & Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (which sounds incredibly boring, but it’s actually quite useful), and The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks would also be pretty handy to have.
Now, if I was in a safe place where I wouldn’t have to run away from the zombies and I was looking for books that I could read over and over without ever getting tired of them, I would choose books like “The Order of the Phoenix” by J.K. Rowling, “A Breath of Snow and Ashes” by Diana Gabaldon, and “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why? – Being able to manipulate time would be a useful superpower. I love history, so just from a personal interest perspective, being able to go back in time and visit certain time periods would be extremely fun. It would also come in handy when writing historical fiction, as it would make research much easier if I could just hop back in time and observe everything around me.
What is your favorite scene to write? Well, I can’t say what my favourite scene to write in “All That Compels the Heart” is without giving away spoilers, but I will say that, in general, I like writing emotional scenes. It doesn’t matter if they are happy, sad or whatever; anything that makes my characters deal with some big emotions and, hopefully, make the reader feel something, are always fun to write. I also love world-building, so any scenes where I get to be detailed and descriptive are interesting to me.
If you could have any other job/profession other than being a writer, what would it be? – Before I started writing fiction, I had plans to become a professor of Classics, and I feel like I’m in a place now where I would be happy going back to that. I also really love archaeology, so working within that field is also something I would be interested in pursuing.
Any advice for aspiring writers? – Stop over-thinking it and start writing it! If you are thinking of writing a story but you aren’t sure if you are good enough, just go for it. You won’t know if you are any good at it until you give it a try. And you might not produce something you’re happy with the first time; that’s ok. Keep working at it and eventually you’ll produce something you believe in.
THANK YOU SO MUCH ERIN BOWLEN for taking the time to do this interview.
Erin was born and raised in New Brunswick, Canada. Growing up, she was influenced by her family’s artistic roots in the art of storytelling, which fostered a deep love for literature at a young age.
Erin began her writing career during her postgraduate studies at the University of New Brunswick. Finding herself at a crossroads with her academic writing, a friend suggested that she try writing fiction. Afraid she might be too much of a storyteller to be completely academic (and afraid she might be too academic to be a storyteller), she decided to participate in a 30-day writing competition. At the end of the month she was surprised that she not only met her word count goal, but she had also developed several novel ideas.
After a few years of developing her craft, she finally took the next step and published her first novel: All That Compels the Heart.
Erin currently lives in New Brunswick.
Thanks for stopping by lovelies. I hope you enjoyed reading this review and add All That Compels The Heart on your TBR.
Until next time, take care, have a fun weekend, and read more books!