|Robin D. Owens continues her Celta series with an intriguing, poignant story of two very wounded souls (three if you count the dog). Readers who have not read previous books in this series might find parts of the story difficult to follow, but the effort is definitely worth it.
Lahsin D’Yew is seventeen and about to experience her Second Passage, where her Flair, or psi power, will strengthen to mature levels. Lahsin was married at fourteen to a much older nobleman who has treated her brutally. Celtan law states that upon Second Passage, Lahsin has the power to repudiate her marriage, but first she needs to escape and hide from her husband.
Escape she does, with an act of Flair that stuns her and gives her clues to what her true psi talent will be. With the help of a sympathetic guardsman, Lahsin makes her way to the long-abandoned estate called FirstGrove, a place of sanctuary that only opens to those in need. Here she can wait out her Second Passage.
Tinne Holly is the second son of one of the FirstFamilies of Celta, a family known for their fighting prowess. Tinne is the heir to his G’Uncle Tab’s fighting salon. Only twenty-three, Tinne has been married for several years, and now he’s facing one of the greatest scandals a Celtan can face. His wife wants a divorce. A series of grueling psi divorce tests reveals that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Mixed with Tinne’s grief is a ray of hope that perhaps now he can locate and link with his true HeartMate: Lahsin D’Yew.
Tinne has known that Lahsin is his HeartMate for years, but when she was married off to another, he tried to put her out of his mind and married someone else. With a large clue from his cousin, Straith T’Blackthorn, Tinne heads for FirstGrove, which allows him entry. However, Celtan law prevents Tinne from simply informing Lahsin that he is her HeartMate. She must discover that for herself. So Tinne sets out to slowly, gently draw Lahsin out of her protective shell, while healing his own wounded heart.
Lahsin is extremely wary of the good-looking stranger that appears in FirstGrove, but as she spends time with him, mostly in the evenings near a soaking pool, she begins to let down her guard - a little. Lahsin also discovers an injured wild dog on the grounds, with whom she makes an uneasy truce. And the estate’s house itself is a sentient being. BalmHeal Residence has the persona of a grumpy old man who doesn’t want to be disturbed, but who might be convinced that Lahsin’s presence is beneficial after she begins caring for the plants in the conservatory.
Tinne, the dog (who has been abused himself), and the house form an unlikely alliance to help protect Lahsin when her husband sets out to find her. Lahsin needs to experience her Second Passage and repudiate her marriage in front of three impartial witnesses before she can be free. Tinne knows that Second Passage can be deadly, and he fears for Lahsin’s safely should she experience it alone.
There are several subplots woven into the story, including a house that is just becoming a sentient being, and numerous characters from previous books make appearances to help move things along. The main focus stays on Tinne and Lahsin, however, and their slow connection is built carefully as she learns to trust him. Their relationship progresses naturally from wary friendship to passion, and Owens does it skillfully. The sexual tension sizzles in Tinne and simmers in Lahsin, as he’s experienced and she doesn’t know what she’s missed, and when the two converge, it sparkles.
One of the strengths of this series is Owens’ ability to immerse us in her world. Celtan customs are different in many respects, but the world is based on the idea of original Earth settlers, allowing a degree of comfort for the reader. It’s not necessary to spend huge amounts of the book trying to visualize Celta, so the characters and the romance can take center stage. Owens doesn’t hesitate to bring in previous characters, and while this works well for those who have some familiarity with the series, it may be a bit of a stumbling block for readers who haven’t.
The other small drawback to the story is Lahsin herself. She’s only seventeen, not yet an adult, and though Tinne is six years her senior, he’s worlds ahead of her. For purposes of the plot, she needs to be basically a teenager. There is even a final, Third Passage in her future. The author makes a wise decision in how she ends the story, not trying to wrap up everything quite as neatly as some of her other novels, but still satisfying the reader.
Robin D. Owens has three more Celta books under contract, and savvy readers will pick up a big hint as to who her next hero is. Fans of the Celta series won’t be disappointed with Heart Fate. It’s a lovely romantic journey.