Highland Knight

Thirteen Chances by Cindy Miles
(Signet Eclipse, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-451-22782-9
Get out your hankies, readers, because Thirteen Chances is a true romance in every sense of the word.

Christian is a Welsh warrior who has lived 9 centuries, mostly as a ghost. As a young man, he met and fell deeply in love with a lady named Emma. Christian left for battle, Emma promised to wait for him, and performed an ancient spell to have him return safely, but bungled it accidentally. Christian died on the battlefield, and vowed that he would wait for Emma forever. It looks like he may have to wait forever for he and Emma to have a life together. Every 72 years, Emma’s reincarnated soul is drawn to Arrick by the Sea, Christian’s ruined castle. Twelve times, Emma has been drawn to Arrick, Christian has wooed her and just as they profess their love and Emma regains her memory of their previous lives together, she dies. 

This time, Christian and Emma’s thirteenth chance, something is different. The Ballaster sisters, who are good witches, have decided to risk a chancy spell to bring Emma and Christian together forever, after witnessing Christian’s twelfth heartbreak. Unfortunately, the spell may not work, and if it doesn’t, Emma won’t be reincarnated again.

Emma Calhoun is a modern woman, bold and funny, a great photographer and yearning for…something. She searches all over the internet for the answer to a strange place that’s been haunting her dreams recently, and comes up with a picture of Arrick by the Sea.  She immediately books a holiday at the bed and breakfast owned by the Ballasters. 

While Emma follows her dream, Christian is fed up of the painful cycle that fate has trapped him and his intended bride in. He decides to scare Emma away from Arrick by the Sea, but he doesn’t know that Emma will be just as he remembers her – only much more courageous, outspoken, and bold. Christian’s scare tactics only entice Emma, and they start their final chance together.  Christian is tormented by the memories of each time they have loved and lost. Emma remains completely unaware of their past; she only knows that she’s drawn to the mysterious ghost who seems strangely familiar.

Let’s start with the good parts of Thirteen Chances: it’s stunningly romantic, hopeful and sweet. Christian’s attempts to end the torment of the love/death cycle that he and Emma have been living are understandable and completely hold the reader’s attention. Emma’s down-to-earth demeanor and tepid acceptance of Christian’s ghostly state serve to make her more likeable, and real. The deftly written, beautiful background of Arrick by the Sea and the charming Ballaster sisters help the story flow nicely.

The only real problems I had with the story were the progressively sugary scenes between Christian and Emma and the lack of physical chemistry between the lead couple. Yes, I realize that Christian doesn’t have a body, and he does express himself fairly well in words, but I still missed the chemistry that usually progresses between the hero and heroine. As for the very sweet encounters, it wasn’t a deal breaker for me, but I did occasionally put the book down with a tooth-ache kind of feeling.

All that having been said, I can definitely recommend Thirteen Chances to fans of The Notebook, and the sincerely romantic style of writing of Cindy Miles will more than satisfy their craving for hope, tenderness and true love.   

--Amy Wroblewsky     

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