Glory Seekers

High Stakes

 
Destiny’s Daughter by Rebecca Brandewyne
(Mira, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN 1-55166-782-7
**
When I come across a romance novel that stretches the boundaries of the genre, I try to recognize the author’s courage in my rating. When I looked at Rebecca Brandewyne’s list of Players and noted that the lives of her characters spanned time from pre-history to the present, I guessed that I was about to read just such a novel. I was prepared to judge her novel gently, given the evident scope of her ambition. Having read Destiny’s Daughter from cover to cover - no mean feat - I have to tell you that a two-heart rating is indeed generous...generous but supportable.

Before I started reading, I worried a little about that long list of characters, most in the past. I need not have. Despite the length of the list, the story is set in the present, with the glimpses into the past being no more than that: glimpses, each a few pages long. As such, they add interest to the story without fragmenting the narrative line. I had no problem with them; it was the present day action - or lack of it - that gave me trouble.

The main plot starts off well. Simon St. Blaze, the epitome of an absent-minded professor, has received an e-mail clearly not meant for him. The e-mail proves to be fatal; he is run down by a car and his keys and briefcase taken. What his killers do not know is that he has just mailed the information they fear to his daughter, Bryony St. Blaze.

The two CDs in the package Bryony receives are password-protected, but Bryony manages to figure out the password to her father’s introductory letter. In it, he advises her to get in touch with a man he knows only as questor@dragon.co.uk. Simon warns his daughter that both she and Questor may be in danger from the organization that sent the e-mail, the Abbey of the Devine. Bryony sends Questor an e-mail immediately, before she can lose her nerve.

Not too long afterwards, Bryony flies into Aberdeen, Scotland, to meet Questor, a.k.a. Hamish Neville, an historian living in an isolated cottage in the Grampians. Hamish kidnaps her from her hotel in broad daylight and spirits her away to his cottage before anyone from the Abbey of the Devine can harm her or track him. They are immediately attracted to each other. Before they can do much about it - or make much progress figuring out what the Abbey of the Devine is about - the Abbey locates Hamish’s cottage and attacks them. They hold their attackers off until the police arrive, but they agree that they cannot safely stay in Hamish’s cottage. They take to the road, laptop and CDs in hand.

What’s wrong with this story so far? Very little. The writing is sometimes a bit over-the-top - at one point, Hamish kisses Bryony’s “pearly, swanlike throat” which jerked me right out of that love scene - but I could overlook some jarring phrasing as long as the rest of the story held my interest. You would think that the tension would ratchet up as Hamish and Bryony try to stay one step in front of the Abbey while they search for clues to the location of the treasure of the Knights Templar…or maybe it’s the Holy Grail they are looking for…or maybe something else entirely.

Quite the contrary. I fell asleep twice while struggling to finish the last 125 pages.

Once Hamish and Bryony leave Scotland, they become mouthpieces for Ms. Brandewyne’s recounting of the hypothesis that humankind did not evolve naturally but was uplifted to thinking status by alien visitors. The treasure of the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail are merely the all-wise aliens’ method of pointing humankind toward wisdom and peace. I personally was not inclined to believe in these theories before I read Destiny’s Daughter and boring page after page of straight exposition - sometimes disguised as the dullest dialogue I have read in a long time - was not the way to convert me.

I have a hard time figuring out who composes the audience for Destiny’s Daughter. Those readers who already believe in the uplift theory have probably read all the writers Ms. Brandewyne refers to. Those of us who don’t believe or have never heard of the theory are going to be too bored to persevere long enough to be persuaded. All that leaves is insomniacs.

I do recommend it for insomniacs.

--Nancy J. Silberstein


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