Series: Celta's Heartmates #1
Published by Berkley Publishing Group on Dec. 1, 2001
Genres: Fantasy Romance
Source: my personal collection
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All his life, Rand T’Ash has looked forward to meeting his HeartMate, with whom he could begin a family. Once a street tough, now a respected nobleman and artisan, he has crafted the perfect HeartGift, which, in the custom of the psychically gifted population of the planet Celta, is the way a man finds—and attracts—his wife…
Danith Mallow is irresistibly drawn to the magnificent necklace on display in T’Ash’s shop, but she is wary of its creator, despite an overpowering attraction. In a world where everyone is defined by their psychic ability, Danith has little, placing her at the opposite end of the social spectrum from T’Ash. But T’Ash refuses to accept her rejection and sees it as a challenge instead. They are HeartMates, but can T’Ash persuade his beloved to accept her destiny by his side?
I have mixed feelings about Robin D. Owens’ debut novel, Heart Mate. On the one hand, I love the world of Celta – a planet colonized primarily by Celts. It’s a society where members of the leading Houses (something like Scottish clans) wield significant psychic powers, called Flair, which usually manifests in between one and three abilities or strengths . Even many middle- and lower-class citizens have some degree of Flair, and significant Flair automatically ennobles the holder. Owens does a good job with the worldbuilding in the series as a whole, but it’s a little ragged in the first book. If not you’re not familiar with SF/F in general, it may take you a while to adjust and gain familiarity with the world, since on the whole, Owens avoids infodumps.
But this is a fantasy romance, and its there that I have a few problems with the book. To begin with, Rand T’Ash is so awkward and inept, and so convinced his Heartmate will just fall into his arms and magically make everything better, that I just want to shake some sense into him. To make things worse, he’s very domineering, though that is understandable given his background: he is a noble lord whose whole family was killed when he was young, and he spent his childhood and adolescence trying to survive in Downwind (the slums), so he’s pretty rough around the edges, and he hasn’t experienced much in the way of love and kindness. Despite that, I didn’t find his cluelessness and autocratic manner at all endearing; in fact, they often put my back up, in much the same way that they irritate Danith Mallow. Danith is an orphan and a commoner – and T’Ash’s Heartmate, though she doesn’t realize it for a while. I liked and empathized with her, though sometimes she needs to grow a little more backbone.
The whole Heartmate concept is the fated-soulmate trope taken to the nth degree. Heartmates are literally connected on a psychic level, and you don’t get to choose your Heartmate; they’re out there somewhere, and you have to find them. That’s both intriguing and potentially disturbing; I woudn’t want to be essentially forced or coerced into a relationship, even if it were a psychic connection and not the other person doing the coercing. (In later books, it’s clear that Heartmates don’t always end up together, and that both partners have to accept the bond in order for it to flourish – so it is possible to refuse the bond if you literally cannot stand your Heartmate.)
The character development works pretty well, given where the main characters begin. Danith has to learn to stand up to T’Ash and ultimately to take risks for what she wants. T’Ash learns that he has to give trust and open himself to love as well. Once he figures that out, I like him a lot better.
The secondary characters are less developed, though a number of them show up in and even star in later novels. One of my favorite characters in the book is T’Ash’s Fam (a familiar of sorts), an alpha tomcat called Xanth. Although he’s sentient and fairly intelligent and speaks mind-to-mind with T’Ash, he has all the arrogance and self-centeredness of a real cat, and all the instincts and skills of a true hunter.
I didn’t start with Heart Mate; I read the books out of order, but I had no trouble sorting the chronology out. If you start with this one, you should know A) that it gets very mixed reviews (some people love it, some hate it) and B) although this one is entertaining enough, the next few are better, and definitely worth getting into the series for.
See the whole Celta’s Heartmates series on Goodreads.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Summer Vacation 2014