The Falcon’s Bride
by Dawn Thompson
(Love Spell, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-505-52679-4
**
Ireland. Ancient legends. Centuries-old family feud. Time travel. This could be compelling, interesting, even informative. Or confusing, annoying, and, strangely, boring. Guess which.

Theodosia Barrington has come to Ireland to be married to Nigel Cosgrove, a gorgeous, blond, blue-eyed Adonis who is the second son of an earl. Although she knows she should be pleased with her lucky catch, she’s still a wee bit concerned that she doesn’t know him very well and there is that murder charge on which he was recently acquitted. Regardless, Thea has come to fulfill her obligation. Her mother and father, on the other hand, can’t be bothered to even accompany her to Ireland; they have sent instead her brother James, scarcely a year older than Thea’s 21. The parents care little for each other and little for their children. Thea’s not expecting her own marriage to be much different.

Things aren’t very pleasant there at Cashel Cosgrove, what with the constant carping of Nigel’s mother, Countess Ridgewood, who likes nothing about Thea, including that she prefers the name Thea to Theodosia. Not to mention Nigel himself, given to griping and groping at her, stopping just short of rape. He stops just short only because he is attacked by a falcon that literally rips out his eye.

Not to worry – Thea isn’t meant for Cosgrove. According to the old gypsy who appears out of nowhere, Thea is meant to be the “falcon’s bride.” The gypsy is not referring to the actual bird, mind you, but to Ros Drumcondra, a half-gypsy, half-Celt warrior; the falcon is said to be his “familiar.” Good thing he has a familiar, as he’s been dead since 1695. It’s 1811. Good thing there’s an ancient burial mound nearby. Maybe it serves as an opening in the time fabric…

There begins a time hopping tale that connects Thea with Ros, as well as with Cian Cosgrove, the Cosgrove ancestor who stole Cashel Cosgrove from Ros Drumcondra after slaying his wife and children. Interestingly, Cian’s bride-to-be disappeared in 1695, just like Thea has in 1811…and Cian lost an eye in a falcon attack as well. Are these events connected? Are they, in a weird way, the same story, with Thea as the fiancé both times?

This could all make such an interesting tale. Instead, it makes a nonsensical and confusing one, for several reasons. First, there is all this time travel going on, but it seems to be without parameters or consistency – there don’t seem to be any rules about who can cross over, when they can, where it happens, or what causes it. This would be confusing enough, but it is compounded by the difficulty discerning what time period we are in. Really, basically only by seeing who else is on the scene can the reader determine what time period is being inhabited; well, that and the weather, as it is snowing heavily in 1811 but not 1695. Surely the significant differences between the worlds of 1695 and 1811 would impact the action, but they go un-remarked upon, or are included in laundry-list fashion, as if only there to illustrate the time change, but not really play any part in it.

Beyond this confusion, though, was a general lack of interest in Thea and Ros. Who are these people (aside from being rather adept time travelers)? They are barely there at all, and where they are there they are either inconsistent or, frankly, not very likeable. It isn’t clear who they are, outside the usual on-the-shelf society girl with a bit more spine than one would expect, and the proud warrior who has lost his family and home to an undeserving, nasty noble family. I don’t care about these people, don’t understand their attraction to each other, and don’t believe their relationship. What with all the time hopping, they barely even spend any time together, except when Ros is dragging Thea to the castle to illustrate to Cian that he can kill Thea, or make her “damaged goods,” if Ros doesn’t get his castle back. Charming.

Finally, the book contains a few of my non-favorite things: abduction (including beating fists futilely upon abductor’s back); the cruel baring and fondling of breasts (including by the hero); Gypsies just passing through (including a time traveler); repetition, repetition, repetition; and all the general time traveler unanswered questions (can you change the past without tearing up the future?)

So, two hearts is the best I can do. All these deficiencies could be largely countered by the lovely and literate quality of the writing, bringing it up to three hearts, if it wasn’t so boring, boring, boring that I had to force myself to trudge back and forth through the space/time continuum. Ho hum.

--Laura Scott


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