Hearts in Exile is the third book in the Tallenmere series, and I had not read the first two books when I was asked to review this one. Nonetheless, I was able to read and understand this book well enough without the background of the other two books (though I suspect they would have added to the experience).
The book begins with Loralee, an elf, being exiled on a magical island (that no one else can find) in order to protect the dragons that lived there. She doesn’t know much about what happened to the previous keeper. Early in the book, a man (Robert) washes up on shore after a shipwreck, and it turns out they know each other—intimately. The middle sixty percent of the book or so contains flashbacks of Loralee and Robert’s youth and experiences so that at about seventy percent through the book, the reader fully understands what circumstances led them to their current state, together on the island of dragons.
The book was told in alternating viewpoints, with Loralee and Robert telling their sides of the story. Because they are both somewhat immortal, their lives are much longer than human lives; at sixty-five years old, Loralee is just a young woman. That said, the chapters sometimes skip decades, which is a little strange for a human to fathom. The alternating viewpoints and large skipping of years made the beginning a bit slow and confusing at times, but if you keep with it, you will be drawn into the story and will want to flip the pages to keep reading more. At about seventy percent through, the story returns to the present day, and the island, but I won’t ruin the ending for you.
I’d recommend this book to lovers of fantasy—but those who are annoyed at the usual over-detailing given in fantasy works (this book did not use excessive imagery (at times I craved just a bit more)—lovers of romance, lovers of romance (the romance was poignant and explicit at times, but not overwhelming to the story), and lovers of whimsy (at times, the book featured vampires, orcs, and other mythical creatures, though again, a bit more description would have helped).
Overall, a good summer read.