|Breath of Heaven is the first book by Cindy Holby that I have read. Having more than fifteen published novels under her belt already, I was expecting this one to be well written and engaging. I kept that expectation throughout the whole story but unfortunately, I only found myself starting to enjoy Breath of Heaven in the last seventy pages, which left me slogging through the first two hundred odd pages.
I will however, give Cindy Holby props for the beautiful setting she created for her heroine’s home: Aubregate.
Aubregate is a beautiful, lush and prosperous land run by the dying Lord Edward and his daughter Elaine. But besides being the ideal middle ages fiefdom, Aubregate harbors a secret deep in its forests. A secret that is kept by Elaine, and it is her duty to bestow that secret to her soon-to-be husband Rhys if and when she deems him ready.
Rhys de Remy is a man who has no real emotional connections to people. He doesn’t believe in love and has no desire to marry. So naturally, he finds himself having to take Elaine as his wife to repay a favor to Elaine’s father Edward.
Elaine is a fiercely independent tomboy who spends most of her time hunting, patrolling her father’s lands and dealing with the concerns of her people. She also, like many of the inhabitants of Aubregate, has pointy ears. Part of the mystery surrounding Aubregate is its people. Why they have the pointy ears is not explained until the end of the novel.
Elaine as a character is a combination of fierce warrior princess and hopelessly self-conscious lover. Rhys’ and Elaine’s wedding night proves disastrous and Elaine figures the shortcomings of the night are her fault. This is not true. The problem lies in the impending danger of the arrival of Renauld Vannoy, a real nasty piece of work who wants Rhys dead, and wants Elaine’s lands to himself.
Renauld is a sadist. His hobbies include beating and degrading women, attempted murder, torturing puppies and in general, just being a villain. As a character, he is impressive and very well crafted. Renauld is cringe worthy and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Rhys, on the other hand, is not impressive. His lack of ability to relate to others got old really quickly. Even when he is supposedly falling in love with Elaine, he doesn’t seem to change emotionally and because of this deadpan approach to love, I wasn’t able to believe in the chemistry they had. The only time Rhys really did he show some genuine emotion that wasn’t anger of frustration was at the end of the novel, and by then, I couldn’t bring myself to change my mind about him.
I was also disappointed in Elaine, who is fearless at Aubregtate but loses her self-confidence once she is away from her homeland and starts the backward slide into helplessness. Her primary duty to her people is to solve problems, but when it comes to the problems in her own marriage bed? She comes up short.
The story line moves along at a decent pace and doesn’t fly off into unnecessary tangents. Holby knows how to grab your heart and twist it, making you feel the necessary emotions that you need to feel in order to be engaged. However, she doesn’t bring out that lovely talent until the end.
It was the strong ending of Breath of Heaven that makes me believe that perhaps this is simply not Holby’s best story. According to Holby’s website, Breath of Heaven was the first novel Cindy Holby ever wrote. I am giving Breath of Heaven two stars, but her ability to keep me on the edge of my seat near the end of the novel shows that Cindy Holby has some definite talent and I would certainly read more of her work.