“When you feel like hope is gone, look inside you and be strong and you’ll finally see the truth—that hero lies in you.” – Mariah Carey
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Publisher: Wilde City Press
Pages/Word Count: 60,000 Words
Rating: 4 Stars
Blurb: Construction worker Hal Porter knows he’s nobody special. But when strange events draw him into a magical world, he becomes the only man who can free Morgan, a lonely, long-enchanted shape-shifter. Whether he feels he’s worthy or not, Hal is the hero Morgan has been waiting for.
However, Hal’s task becomes personal as he and Morgan fall in love. Now, to save Morgan and give himself the happily ever after he’s always longed for, Hal will need to do something far more daunting than face Morgan’s captor or finally come out of the closet…
He’ll have to believe in himself.
Review: A prince is held captive by his own promise. Left to an endless life of use and abuse after having been lured away from all of his family by the promise of love and care, Morgan is now trapped inside the hell of his own making in many ways. But his Mother cannot rest until she finds the elusive “hero” that can love her son enough to rescue him from his captor. In an alternate reality where a prince is actually the very building that holds him captive and evil walks among humans without detection, our hero goes blithely unaware to his construction job each day, passing what appears to be an empty lot.
Hal has left his home in Kansas to come to California in the hopes of escaping the guilt and shame he feels about his being gay. In fact, he can barely acknowledge to himself that he likes men, and the idea of following through and actually being with a man leaves him terrified and wracked with misery. Then he sees a building where there should be none, and in its window a man, a beautiful man who looks so terribly lost and sad—just like himself. After a bewildering encounter with that man where Hal must finally come to grips with whether he will remain locked in his own closet or become the man he was meant to be, our hero sets off to rescue his prince. But how can one man show another that inside each of us lies a hero waiting to save the day?
Heidi Cullinan gives us a unique world where shape shifters take on a whole new meaning. The idea that Morgan is, in essence, able to be both male or female and also erect rooms and entire buildings around himself is at times breathtaking and also baffling. What makes her characters, both Hal and Morgan so raw and shatteringly real, however, is their pain and sorrow. The author explores the thought that our own disbelief in ourselves binds us to an almost half-life existence where we are mired down in our self-loathing and despair. Both Hal and Morgan have little faith in themselves. It is this that allows the evil and manipulative character, Eagen, to use Morgan so cruelly and nearly prevent Hal from understanding that his love for Morgan can make him strong enough to rescue the prince.
Their story and journey is really what makes this novel shine. Both Hal and Morgan deserve a happy ending, and that hangs in the balance until the very end. Layered with a action packed rescue and multiple moments where sex is performed for the pleasure of a jeering crowd, this story is a fast read that keeps you glued to the page until its final moments. The problem that arises in this story has little to do with the burgeoning relationship between Hal and Morgan and more to do with what exactly Morgan is. I found myself never fully understanding how he could be a, well, a building of sorts. I couldn’t quite understand what type of creature Morgan actually appeared to be, and that continually nagged at me, sometimes drawing me away from the story. I felt as though that portion of the story was left unfinished and since it was pretty vital to understand exactly what Morgan was, as it affected Hal so dramatically, I felt the lack of explanation to be a fairly serious flaw.
However, Heidi Cullinan’s Hero was still an exceptionally compelling and beautiful love story. The change that takes place in both Hal and Morgan was nothing short of breathtaking and left one with a restored belief that heroes do indeed walk among us; and may, in fact, be inside each of us.
*Note: This is a revised re-release of this novel.