Olivia’s Choice (Forest Races #1) – Taylor Grace

Olivia'schoicecover (1)Once and a while I come across a book that reminds me of why I decided to start blogging in the first place, Olivia’s Choice is a perfect example of that, an undiscovered gem. It was very unlikely that I would have happened upon it if I hadn’t taken up reviewing and that would have been a shame. This story defies description, the best I can come up with would be Game of Thrones meets Avatar with a deft touch of romantic comedy added to keep the story from coming across heavy handed or preachy. Part sci fi/romance and part cautionary fable Olivia’s Choice grabbed my attention almost immediately.

Olivia wants a board position to avoid working in the classroom. She likes children but can’t bear the idea of speaking in front of groups. Her superiors will grant her the coveted position but only if she establishes an exchange program with the Annax. A race of people very like humans who live in harmony with nature largely eschewing technology with whom Olivia has ties she does not wish to reestablish. Faced with the decision of spending a week in the Annax city or return to the classroom Olivia grudgingly journeys to the Annax determined to spend as little time as possible there.

They created the five Forest Races. Each uniquely connected to the forests. Each with a completely different gift – and a completely different curse. Five for each of the fingers of the human hand that was slowly killing the life of the planet. The Forest Races. Together they could do the impossible.

It would be an understatement to say that the captain of the guard and Olivia did not get off to the most auspicious of starts. I would be none to fond of someone who tossed me in the river minutes after meeting them either. To make matters worse the Laren Leader decrees that she will have to work with his son Baphrem, the arrogant seeming, captain of the guard to whom she is reluctantly attracted.

When her boss asks her to complete a project that takes her back to the Annax city, Olivia’s lifelong avoidance of the race comes to an abrupt end. The last thing she needs is the arrogant son of the Annax leader as a co-worker. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what she gets.

I found Olivia’s Choice to be an original, fascinating read with superb world building and an entrancing  plot in particular Olivia’s unique predicament of being caught between two worlds. The love story between Olivia and Baphrem was in turns humorous and passionate. I am impatiently looking forward to the next installment in this unconventionally appealing series.

I was so entertained by this unique debut that I contacted the author to ask her a bit more about the Forest Races. Taylor Grace was kind enough to comply. Here is a more in depth look at the Forest Races and what we can expect to see in the upcoming installments!

PD: Can you tell us more about the Forest Races, is their strong relationship to nature a statement on the impact of man on their environment?

TG: The impact we humans have had and are having on the environment depresses me. I hate to hear that Polar Bears are drowning in the Arctic because there are no icebergs left. I wondered, one day, what would happen if Mother Nature had enough of us and decided to do something about it? I didn’t think she’d be the type to start throwing trees at random humans. I thought she’d be more covert in her response. The Five Forest Races came out of that thought. That’s why, in the prologue, it says: “Five, one for each of the fingers of the human hand that was slowly killing the life of the planet.”

PD: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

TG: I hope they enjoy the love story and, if they happen to laugh along the way, bonus. I read for enjoyment. If they find that in the book, I’ll be over the moon.

PD: How is the Forest Dwellers Earth like ours, how is it different?

TG: The earth is the same except the Forest Races have been there along with us. We share the planet and try to get along.

PD: I have noticed that many Canadian authors opt to set their books in the U.S. you didn’t, why?

TG: I didn’t consciously try to avoid or to single out Canada or the US. I went with Amazon because, at the time, it was what worked out best for me.

PD: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

TG: No. I loved Olivia. I thought she was goofy and not perfect but still deserving of her happy ending and Baphrem was a hero that I could relate to and liked. He was coming into his own and finding his place in Viddion and wasn’t perfect which I liked best of all.

PD: What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

TG: I read Nalini Singh and she gave authors this advice: think of the worse possible thing you can do to a character and then do it. I had a tough time challenging my characters. It took me a couple of re-writes to finally bring the story to where it is today.

As well, going back and getting my smaller characters to be full-fleshed people with faults but also redeeming qualities was a challenge. I didn’t want Bill to be a flat, one-dimensional evil man. He’s sick and struggles with his illness. He doesn’t want to be sick or do what he does. And he has very few tools to deal with his disease. I wanted to try and give him a rounded personality. Not easy when he’s…well, the way he is.

PD: You are currently working on the next book in the Forest Dwellers series, how many books are planned and what general direction do you plan to take us in, i.e. will we learn more about the four other Forest Races?

TG: My next book is Klias’ story. I’m very excited about it because he’s scary and brilliant and thrilling to write. I hope I can do him justice. His heroine, Amy is Auran, who is a new Forest Race to the readers. She’s learning about the race in the story, so hopefully it will be fun to discover that race for the reader as well. After that, I have an idea for the Norns. Their connection with the Forest is Death, so they’re pretty scary but I think they’re also super interesting. I have an idea for them and that would be book 3.

PD: Which authors have influenced you the most?

TG: Soooo many. I’ve read my entire life. I started reading with Enid Blyton and grew up with Jules Verne and Rudyard Kipling. I read Terry Brooks like an addict and loved every one of Tad Williams’ books. It was only recently that I “discovered” romance. A friend suggested Twilight and I said no at first, then I read the first paragraph…and I was done. I got home, closed the door, kicked out the dog and turned off the phone. I read the entire first book in one afternoon, then went to the bookstore to buy the next ones in the series and stayed up all night. I’ve been a romance fanatic ever since.

PD: What’s on your To Be Read shelf?

TG: I just finished the latest book by Jill Shalvis (so good!). She’s one of those on my automatic-buy list and I finished Nalini Singh’s Archangel’s Legion (yum!).  I’m actually re-reading the entire BDB series by J. R. Ward right now (again!) and then I think I’ll move onto Nora Roberts afterwards. Isn’t she amazing? As to who’s coming up…I have yet to read Dark Witch by Nora Roberts and I can’t wait for that one.

PD: How can readers discover more about you and you work?

AUTHOR: Taylor Grace

RATING: 3 1/2 Stars (Closer to 4)

GENRE: Sci-fi/Romance/Literary Fiction

Disclaimer: ARC was kindly provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. 

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