Review: Heartmate by Robin D. Owens

From the blurb: All his life, Rand T’Ash has looked forward to meeting his HeartMate, with whom he could begin a family. Once a street tough, now a respected nobleman and artisan, he has crafted the perfect HeartGift, which, in the custom of the psychically gifted population of the planet Celta, is the way a man finds—and attracts—his wife…Danith Mallow is irresistibly drawn to the magnificent necklace on display in T’Ash’s shop, but she is wary of its creator, despite an overpowering attraction. In a world where everyone is defined by their psychic ability, Danith has little, placing her at the opposite end of the social spectrum from T’Ash. But T’Ash refuses to accept her rejection and sees it as a challenge instead. They are HeartMates, but can T’Ash persuade his beloved to accept her destiny by his side?

My thoughts: A slight disclaimer, I have read this book over 10 times now, as each new book comes out I refresh my feelings of wonder with this series and renew my acquaintance with the wonderful world of Celta.  This first one started all the love for me, with wonderful settings, an awkward hero and a heroine just looking for the love of a big family.

The author starts us off by throwing us directly into this wonderfully imagined world.  Celta is a human colony, settled for many hundreds of years but the humans are not doing so well here, and many families have low birth rates, and some have died out.  On the opposite spectrum, humans can live for over 150 years and have ‘Flair’ the author’s word for psy powers.  The society is extremely class driven, but although most of the character’s points of view are from the higher classes we do get the occasional viewpoint of the lower classes and to them, the ‘GreatLords and GreatLadies’ are just plain weird with all their unusually strong Flair.

Confused already?  Don’t be.  The author throws you in headfirst but if you keep kicking you will find your way, and the rewards are worth it.  If this wasn’t a romance, then this world would have great opportunities for adventure stories, murder mysteries, the list goes on.  *in fact I feel some fan fiction gurgling away as we speak*

The basic premise of this story, and indeed most of the other books in the series, is that some lucky people discover during their ‘Passage’ (bouts during childhood, adolescence and young adulthood where a person’s flair finally breaks free and is fully controlled) that they have a Heartmate.  A Heartmate is the more visceral version of a soulmate.  They literally die without the other once they are bonded.  (While I think the idea of a heartmate is romantic – I think it would be scary to know that once your partner died that was it for you)

T’Ash, our hero of this book, is the last of his line.  His family was destroyed by an enemy when he was a child and he grew up on the streets.  He eventually clawed his way out of the gutter and got his revenge.  He is now an established jewellery designer and craftsman and his dream of finally meeting his heart mate are about to be realised.  But Danith, his heart mate, has other ideas as she is hoping for a marriage proposal from her current boyfriend who is from a large and boisterous family, which is exactly what she wants, she being an orphan.

There are many obstacles to this relationship which should have been smooth sailing, but T’Ash bungles things and Danith lets fear rule her, and it is not until they admit to themselves what they really want that things work out.  (I hope I didn’t ruin the ending for you, but you know if it is a romance then there is a happy ending)

The romance itself was competently done, although soul mate romances can be a little trite, and the tension is a bit lower as you know nothing will keep them apart forever, but I think what did it for me, was the setting, the intense amount of research that has gone into the religious practices of this world as well as the telepathic cats!!  Zanth was a highlight of this book for me, an ugly tomcat who speaks in short sentences and is supremely selfish, as all cats are, while being a very loveable creature as well.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough but I must warn some readers.  It hasn’t appealed to a lot of romance readers because of the highly complex nature of the setting, and it hasn’t appealed to some SF readers because of the romance focussed storyline, so if sf romance is your thing then this is the book for you.  Lucky SF romance is my thing.

The Unleashing by Shelly Laurenston: A review

From the blurb:

Kera Watson never expected to face death behind a Los Angeles coffee shop. Not after surviving two tours lugging an M16 around the Middle East. If it wasn’t for her hot Viking customer showing up too late to help, nobody would even see her die.

In uncountable years of service to the Allfather Odin, Ludvig “Vig” Rundstrom has never seen anyone kick ass with quite as much style as Kera. He knows one way to save her life—but she might not like it. Signing up with the Crows will get Kera a new set of battle buddies: cackling, gossiping, squabbling, party-hearty women. With wings. So not the Marines.

But Vig can’t give up on someone as special as Kera. With a storm of oh-crap magic speeding straight for L.A., survival will depend on combining their strengths: Kera’s discipline, Vig’s loyalty… and the Crows’ sheer love of battle. Boy, are they in trouble.

My thoughts:

The author starts off the book with a quick note to say, no, this book is not a rewrite of a previous book Hunting Season which she wrote a few years ago and is suspiciously similar, but it is set in the same world with new characters and the world a little more complex and realised.  I’m not sure then why she didn’t just call it book 2 but, hey, I’m not one to quibble.  Before I get into what I thought of the book, I will say this disclaimer.  I luuuuuurve Shelly Laurenston’s shifter books.  They are hilarious, the girls are kick-ass, the boys are cute, alpha males who although they are full of a lot of testosteronish posturing, really they’re just sweeties at heart.  They are, in short, great paranormal romances.

This book?  Much as I loved the world the author created, the characters, the kick-ass heroine (ex-marine), the dangerous but shy hero (descended from Vikings), the gaggle of fellow gal-pal Crows Kera meets, her dog, and everything else about the world, what I didn’t really like about this book was the romance.  I would have to categorise this book as an urban fantasy rather than paranormal romance because quite frankly, without the romance, this book still would have made sense.  It felt rushed, slipped in amongst all the other cool stuff the author needed to shove in there for the world building, and, quite frankly, even though the hero played a part in getting Kera turned into a Crow in the first place, if they had just stayed friends it wouldn’t have impacted the story in any way.  There was no tension in the romance, no obstacles (besides some physical ones where their lives were at stake) so I couldn’t feel connected to it, I didn’t care.  I liked both characters but there were too many other things going on for me to be too invested.  There were too many other characters, too many points of view.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy this book, but I think the blurb should have been different, it should have been marketed as an urban fantasy rather than the typical paranormal romance, because that’s where my expectations were, and they were disappointed because of it.  But as an urban fantasy, it is quite enjoyable.