Hearts and Swords, by Robin D. Owens

November 10, 2023 Book Reviews 3 ★★★½

Hearts and Swords, by Robin D. OwensHearts and Swords Series: Celta's Heartmates #0.5
Published by Berkley on December 6, 2011
Genres: Fantasy Romance
Pages: 464
Format: Kindle or ebook
Purchase: Amazon | Audible
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three-half-stars
Also in this series: Heart Mate, Lost Heart

Four original novellas from the author of Heart Search.

Award-winning author Robin D. Owens returns to the futuristic world of Celta with four original romantic fantasies as four different couples find their HeartMates and their destinies on Celta.

This book contains mature content and may not be suitable for younger readers.

REVIEW

Hearts and Swords contains four tales of Celta, and is best read by fans of the series. I gave it 3.5 of 5 stars as a whole, but will round that up to 4 stars on Goodreads (which doesn’t allow half-stars), based on my fondness for two of the stories.

“Heart and Swords”3 stars; #0.5 in the Celta’s Heartmates series. The first novella in the book tells the story of Kelse and Fern Bountry and the exodus from Earth to Celta, a tale briefly discussed in Heart Journey, where it is the subject of a successful play. The novella begins when Kelse is awakened from cryosleep aboard the colony ship Nuada’s Sword. He must deal with a mutiny and then decide which planetary system to attempt to colonize, all while trying to suppress his own fears and protect his wife Fern… who much prefers to be by his side, sharing equally in the dangers. While the story makes for decent sci-fi, I didn’t identify as closely with Kelse or Fern as I generally do with protagonists from this series, and felt the conflicts in their relationship could have been more easily resolved if they just talked to each other instead of bottling it up. (Though I admit, they don’t have a lot of time or leisure for talking things through.) In addition, I’m actually much more interested how the original colonists coped after landing: how they built the city of Druida, introduced the plants and animals they had brought with them, and created their society. Alas, “Hearts and Swords” essentially ends as Kelse and Fern exit the ship, now safely landed on Celta.

“Heart Story”3.5 stars, #6.5 in the Celta’s Heartmates series. As readers of the series may remember, Arbusca “Blush” Willow was denied her Heartmate by her mother D’Willow’s cruelty (disclosed in Heart Dance.) In this story, he returns to Druida after decades far to the south. The pair must deal with their lingering pain and anger before they can move forward…while simultaneously handling a situation regarding her Heartmate’s great-uncle. It’s nice to see Arbusca get her happy ending, and I always enjoy a romance featuring middle-aged protagonists. However, the couple’s anger and resentment are resolved a little too easily. This is the shortest tale in the collection, a short story rather than a novella.

“Heart and Soul”4 stars; #7.3 in the Celta’s Heartmates series. One of my two favorites in this collection, “Heart and Soul” follows Genista Furze, Tinne Holly’s former wife, as she builds a new life for herself in Gael City. Living under an assumed name, and apart from her Family and First Families noble society, Genista has finally been able to pursue her interest in clocks and watches. Unbeknownst to Nista (as she is now known), her next-door-neighbor Cardus Parryl, with whom she shares a mutual attraction, is actually a bodyguard hired by the Holly family. I really like both Genista and Cardus and the slow evolution of their relationship in this tale, as well as the stray Fam dog they adopt. The details of Celtan Samhain rituals are also interesting. This is a quiet story of starting over, of healing, and of finding new love. (For readers of the series, Tinne and Genista’s marriage is a secondary or minor thread in all the books Heart Duel through Heart Fate, with the greatest focus appearing in those two novels.)

“Noble Heart”4 stars; #9.5 in the Celta’s Heartmates series. My other favorite from this collection. “Noble Heart” tells the story of Walker Clover, a commoner whose sudden, unexpected onset of Flair skyrockets him, and with him the entire Clover family, into the ranks of the nobility. Walker accepts Sedwy Grove’s assistance as he adjusts to his new abilities and position and learns to deal with the other nobles (and his own Family!), and the two of them find themselves strongly attracted to each other. But both of them have to learn and grow before they’re ready to commit to one another. Both Walker and Sedwy are appealing (especially Walker), the prolific and loving Clover family is always fun, and the novella explores both family and noble relationships in ways that interest me. (Sedwy appears as a minor but important character in Heart Quest. Walker is mentioned once or twice in various books, particularly as tutor to T’Ash’s son Nuin. One or both are mentioned and/or appear briefly in a few of the later books in the series.)

TL;DR: While I wouldn’t recommend Hearts and Swords as a place to start reading the Celta series (also known as Celta’s Heartmates), fans of the series will enjoy the opportunity to explore a few of the side characters and stories mentioned in the novels.

Availability: As of the date on this post, Hearts and Swords is no longer available in paperback. You can find used copies through various online sellers (try Abe Books, Better World Books, Biblio, Pango Books, or Thriftbooks.) The ebook is still available through most ebook retailers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble (see buy links at the top of this post.)

three-half-stars

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Upside-Down 2023: Chapter 2
  • The Backlist Reader Challenge 2023

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