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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Heart Change by Robin D. Owens

Heart Change by Robin D. Owens
Publisher: Penguin Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (368 pages)
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Robin D. Owens returns to the world of the faraway planet Celta in the eighth novel of her award-winning series.

Signet D’Marigold’s lonely life is shaken when a prophet reveals she is a catalyst for change. But to accept her new life—and the charge of the noble child Avellana—means embracing a danger that may be fatal for them both. Especially when Signet’s attraction to her new bodyguard signals a secret enemy sworn to destroy them.

I loved this romantic tale about a lonely woman with a battered sense of self-worth finding out not only does she have a future, but her innate gifts will save that which she holds most dear.

Signet is a woman of means, a modicum of status in Celtan society and without purpose. Every person, to one extent or another, has a talent that betters their respective communities and society as a whole. Everyone except Signet and it’s wearing her down. Right away the author had me sympathizing with the heroine.

This is the eighth book in the Heart series and it completely stands on its own. Ms. Owens has created an astoundingly vibrant, rich, and busy world populated by Earth’s descendants. They don’t have technology like we know it. It’s powered by psi-talent and incredibly powerful. Because it has become so commonplace, it’s become a standard of life and a lot of importance hinges on what kind of talent a person develops. It’s eagerly looked forward to and anticipated with a mixture of hopefulness compounded with fear and anxiety of the unknown. Not everyone survives when their talents bloom, like an exploding flower. That is one of the conflicts of Heart Change – a child in her first psi Passage is in danger but no one that they know of can help her and the girl’s parents are frantic.

The other conflict is with Signet and it’s mostly internal. At first she’s despondent, and then a friend of hers visits with news that proves an exceptional boon to her aching heart. However, this information is a good news/bad news kind of thing. She is charged with a duty that will either destroy her, and others, or will be the realization of a dream she’d thought long dead. In dealing with the situation, Signet exhibits, courage, fear, wonder, elation, love and lust. It’s not a simple journey and it forces her to grow as a person as she handles the revelation of what her talent actually is and what it can do. I could relate to a lot of her concerns because Ms. Owens imbues her characters with a real feel, an in-depth connection that reaches a reader’s emotions.

On top of that, there is Cratag. He’s a tortured man who so desperately wants to fit in and belong. The author let me see into his background to understand where the man was coming from. In doing so, Ms. Owens created another character that grabbed my heartstrings and would not let go. He’s fought for so much, and lost pieces of himself along the way. Cratag is a man I wanted to see happy, but with a man like him, I knew it would not be easy. He’s gruff and grunted a lot, which I actually liked. It fit his personality. He could be tender and he could be ruthless because he was at heart, a warrior. You wouldn’t think a battle-hardened man would be comfortable in a peach colored, pastel filled home and yet his adjustment process was part of his charm that hooked me even more.

The external conflict was foreshadowed, but the author did a great job at being sneaky. She dropped a bit of misdirection, so when the bad guy eventually showed up I was as stunned as the main characters. I stared boggle-eyed at the scene where it was revealed. I love surprise twists and the author sure delivered.

Even if a reader has never read the previous books in the series, all the name-dropping here from characters I’ve met before will not detract or confuse. The author is a master at balancing the current story with just enough basic info from the past installments to pepper it with flavor but never overpower it. I got to see T’Ash and D’Ash again and Vinnie, who actually plays a key role in this book. There is such a feeling of continuity and community, and I find it makes me enjoy every successive book all the more. The mind of Ms. Owens is a truly remarkable and extraordinary gift and I’m so happy to have a chance to visit the planet Celta and its inhabitants once again.

I think there is another conflict I’m forgetting which has to do with Cratag and his extended family. I knew it was going to be a heartbreaker as soon as Vinnie uttered those words. Talking about tearing a man apart – which duty of his heart would he choose? Could he save them both? Poor guy, Ms. Owens put him through an emotional wringer.

The best part of the whole book is the romance. Signet and Cratag are perfect together and therein lays another conflict. One doesn’t think they are meant to be together and the other does, but how do they finally come to an accord? That is the beauty of the story; their journey sees them grow as people along with their love. Love doesn’t grow in a vacuum, and the author makes sure a reader has no doubts that their relationship will not only survive but thrive. It’s a solid happily ever after with a dramatic ending sure to please.

Heart Change is another guaranteed winner for Ms. Owens. Her writing is complex, bold, emotional and creative. Her characters touched me and made me care about what happens to them. I adore her telepathic cats, her ideas about housefluffs and the fact that houses can talk. I read this book until I finished it into the wee hours of the morning because I simply could not put it down. It was entertaining, exciting and romantic. I highly recommend this book and in fact the whole series. The quality of writing never fails and Ms. Owens is an auto-buy for me. Heart Change is going on my keeper shelf with the rest of the Heart family. It’s that good.