|Robin D. Owens continues her absorbing Celtan series with Heart Dance, which picks up only a few months after her latest, Heart Quest, left off. Dufleur Thyme is still recovering from the shock of being kidnapped and barely escaping with her life. Her father is dead and her home destroyed, the result of an explosion in his laboratory where he was experimenting with time manipulation - the Thyme family “Flair”, or psi power. Her bitter mother has moved Dufleur and herself into the rundown Winterberry Residence. There she spends her days caring for her cousin, D’Winterberry, who is Ilex’s mother (from Heart Quest) and the Celtan equivalent of a drug addict.
Since the explosion that destroyed the Thyme Residence, time experimentations have been strictly forbidden and the Thyme family name blackened. With her mother otherwise occupied, Dufleur experiments in secret, in the nether regions of the house, trying to replicate her father’s work and find out what went so horribly wrong. Her own powerful time Flair is garnering interesting results, and she hopes someday to restore her family’s good name and clear her father of any blame.
For Saille T’Willow, new head of the Willow Family, life is becoming increasingly frustrating. He knows Dufleur is his HeartMate, but she seems completely unreceptive to him. In semi-desperation Saille has packaged his HeartGift and sent it out into the world, hoping it will make its way to Dufleur, perhaps with the help of her psychic pet, a Fam Cat named Fairyfoot. Dufleur does receive the HeartGift, but can’t bring herself to accept it. Saille will have to try another tactic, and when Dufleur is pressured by her mother to partake in the social season under the sponsorship of the renowned composer D’Holly, he has his chance.
Saille is the foremost matchmaker on Celta, having come into his title when his grandmother, or MotherDam, fell ill of a debilitating disease and had herself cryonically preserved until a cure could be found. The nearly-dead D’Willow is truly a despicable character, and in a clever plot setup, Dufleur’s experiments with time might be the one thing that can bring about that cure - and perhaps bring about Saille’s downfall as head of his family. For Saille, having been banished to the country by the power-mad D’Willow when he was only a child, nothing good can come of restoring her to life. But Dufleur’s Flair cannot be denied.
These are two very, very likable characters. Dufleur has a heavy load on her shoulders, and given her background of being nearly ignored by her parents, her lack of trust in Saille rings true. In addition to her time experiments, Dufleur is a highly-talented embroiderer, and this creative Flair will finally gain her respect from some powerful quarters. At the same time, she’s the sold breadwinner for the entire household. One can’t help but root for her, even if her refusal to accept Saille or his love started to wear a bit thin toward the end.
As for Saille, it’s always a fun romance when the guy is head over heels and needs to win the heroine. Saille knows he and Dufleur are destined to be together, and his determined patience is almost as palpably frustrating for the reader as the character. When he and Dufleur finally consummate their relationship, it’s plenty steamy, and in every other respect he’s an absolute gentleman to her - the kind of honorable man missing in her life.
Many previous characters make appearances, and it is going to be a tough go for a reader jumping into the series with this book. The author placed a chart and a list at the beginning, but even so, this is probably not the book by which to enter the Celtan world. I’d recommend going back to Heart Mate and reading the series in order. It’s worth savoring, and this story will be so much more captivating.
On a side note, from nearly the outset I’ve wanted the author to weave a romance for Tinne Holly, the unhappily-married younger brother of the hero of Heart Duel. With the nefarious D’Willow, Owens lays the groundwork for his story and explains how the marriage came to be in the first place. Clever plotting, and it promises to be another good read, hopefully the next in the series.
Heart Dance is a complex, engrossing, wonderfully satisfying return to the Celtan world, and readers who are fans of this series should head directly to the bookstore to grab their copy.