Heart Choice

Heart Dance

Heart Duel

Heart Fate

HeartMate

Heart Quest

Heart Thief
  

 
Heart Change
by Robin D. Owens
(Berkley, $15, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0425229972
****
Heart Change comes with four hearts and a caveat: this isn’t the strongest romance in the “Heart” series. Readers who have been following the Celta novels will enjoy it, but much time is spent on important secondary characters, and the leads – and the development of their relationship – suffer for it.

Signet D’Marigold faces a bleak and lonely future as the last of her House. No sooner does she make a friend than a golden opportunity seems to draw them away; worse, her Flair, or psi talent, doesn’t seem to exist. Signet is stunned when young Vinnie T’Vine, the strongest prophet on Celta, visits her with a special request. His HeartMate, young Avellana Hazel, will soon experience her first Passage. Avellana is only seven years old and suffered brain damage from a fall as a toddler. Without Signet’s help, she won’t survive this First Passage, or first Flair experience. When Signet protests, Vinnie stuns her with the news that Signet’s Flair is that of a Catalyst:  Signet has the ability to cause change in those around her, usually for the better.

Catalysts are virtually unknown on Celta, and certainly not understood. But Vinnie knows things others do not, and Signet reluctantly agrees to have Avellana come reside at the Marigold Residence, one of the most beautiful on Celta. With Avellana comes a bodyguard, Cratag Maytree, sent to protect her from possible threats. Cratag is the head of security for GreatLord T’Hawthorn, and he is both hurt and insulted to be sent away from the House he’s served so well. Cratag is of lower birth but has risen to a trusted position in the household, due to his loyalty and his fighting prowess. He’s also been a mentor of sorts to Laev, the young heir of the Hawthorn household, a position he will greatly miss. 

Cratag is immediately drawn to quiet Signet, who is so lovely but seems so sad. Signet is just as attracted to the rough-hewn bodyguard who is so gentle with her. She’s of noble birth, he’s not – the conflict is as old as time. Since it doesn’t take center stage in this story, it’s not allowed to feel shopworn.

And herein lies the problem. Many, many previous characters show up in this book, and while they mostly fill neat slots in the plot, the story of Avellana, her Passage, and whoever is trying to harm her take over the story. Signet and Cratag don’t get nearly enough time to develop their romance. They are HeartMates, but readers don’t get to experience their HeartBond. By the time Owens finished with Avellana, who will undoubtedly be featured in another Celta novel, there just wasn’t time to do justice to Signet and Cratag.

This was disappointing, but for readers who have enjoyed the world Owens has created on Celta, there’s enough going on to keep readers entertained. Young Laev Hawthorn is about to make a big mistake in the throes of teenaged lust. Avellana is a precocious seven year old (though not a brat) and will present a challenge to the childless Signet, who finds herself almost in a governess role. Vinnie knows more than he’s allowed to say. Cratag and Signet both end up with Fams, or psi pets, that alternately complicate and complement the action. And when the author can fit it in, Signet and Cratag have a good start to a romance – it’s just not given enough page space to develop adequately. Nor did the author seem to know what to do with the new Flair of a Catalyst – Signet didn’t use it much or explore its power. This seemed like a wasted opportunity for what could be an interesting talent.

Signet and Cratag are a wonderful couple. She’s sweet, kindhearted, and couldn’t care less about his origins. He’s protective, devoted to her, and worries that he’s not good enough for her. Signet does a fine job of showing Cratag what a treasure he is to her, and he, in turn, makes her understand that not everyone leaves – and he has no intention of going anywhere. They were well-drawn characters.

Robin D. Owens apparently has at least two more Celta novels in the works. Heart Change isn’t the strongest romance of the series, but it’s a satisfying return to an intriguing world. Cratag and Signet will leave you wanting more. 

--Cathy Sova


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