Heart Duel by Robin D. Owens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars (8/10)
In her first novel, HeartMate, Robin D. Owens introduced us to the planet Celta. It was settled around 400 years ago by colonists from Earth. While I cannot remember if it is clearly stated, the colonists were primarily from the Celtic countries and left an increasingly technological Earth for a place where they could develop their psi talents, now known as "Flair".
Some very lucky Celtan couples find that they are HeartMates. This means they have a deep, life-long, flaired connection the binds them more strongly than what a couple that is simply in love can share. In the books so far, it has been the man who has first found his HeartMate and set to win her over, although on her website Owens states that it can also be the other way around. There are firm rules about wooing one's HeartMate, the most important one being that the fact the couple are, in fact, HeartMates must not be revealed until a gift and the union have already been accepted.
We first met Holm Holly, the hero of Heart Duel back in the original in the series. He was young, impulsive and the heir to a Noble House famous for its fighting skills. Now he is a little less young, a little less impulsive, a little more mature and still the heir to his House. He never discovered he had a HeartMate at the appropriate time and now he is being pressured to marry to provide his family with an heir of his own. Then, as the book begins, he discovers to his amazement that he does have a HeartMate after all; he had to mature enough to match her own, older soul.
Whether or not Holm has reached that point, and how he deals with the complications of his love are the main components of the book. There are a lot of complications. For starters, his lady - Lark Collinson - doesn't believe either of them has a HeartMate and that any relationship would be temporary. She is still getting over the death of her husband, three years ago. She is a Healer and Holm a Fighter, not exactly compatible callings. But the real kicker is that Holm's family is involved in a escalating feud with Lark's family. Winning her is not going to be easy.
As I reread what I've written so far, this all sounds very Romeo and Juliet, but I never once thought of that while I was reading the book, which tells me Owens has neatly avoided the risk of falling into cliché. Holm is an engaging hero as he tries his hardest to develop parts of his personality that he has either never uncovered or left long abandoned. The man he is at the end of the book is very different from who he was at the beginning and his development is both well-handled and occasionally painful. Lark's progress though the book is more gentle but still very real. She is a Healer to her fingertips and finding herself so attracted to a man trained to fight goes against everything she believes in.
An added bonus in each Celtan story is the presence of Owens' wonderful "Fam" cats. Intelligent, telepathic and superior, they can easily steal a scene if the rest of the characters are not careful. These books are lovely stories set in their own unique location. I love a mix of technology and magic and these fit that bill perfectly.
View all my reviews