Reading this series of books has been one of my highlights of the past year. I love these books and cannot recommend them highly enough. This third entry is no exception. Although it has a Romeo and Juliet type storyline, the ending is much, much better.
The inhabitants of the planet Celta possess paranormal powers and the population is governed by a group of aristocratic GreatHouses, named after plants. One of the important aspects of this culture is that Celtans sometimes form HeartMates, destined soulmates with whom they are telepathically linked.
Mayblossom Larkspur Hawthorne Collinson (Lark) is a gifted healer. She lost her husband, a fellow healer, three years ago in a crossfire during a duel between nobles. Although Lark was born into a GreatHouse herself, she no longer has respect for the nobles on Celta, especially now that her family (the Hawthornes) and another, the Hollys, are engaged in their own feud. This feud is escalating, and more injured from each family are showing up at the healing hall each day. When Holm, the HollyHeir, brings his brother Tinne to the healing hall after a duel with the Hawthornes, Lark finds herself strangely drawn to him. Holm, for his part, immediately recognizes that Lark is his HeartMate.
When Holm went through his three Passages (a Celtan rite of passage into adulthood), he did not have a HeartMate predicted for him. So his recent discovery that Lark is his HeartMate sends him into a tailspin. When he visits the matchmaker to confirm he actually has a HeartMate, she tells him that he had to realize his potential before he would be worthy of his HeartMate. Since Lark has no idea that she has a HeartMate either, Holm has his work cut out for him, especially since he isn’t a patient person. It’s against the law on Celta to inform your HeartMate about their status, since it could infringe upon free will. Lark has plenty of free will, and there are many compelling reasons for her not to become involved with Holm.
Holm is an incredible hero. Although his very nature is that of a warrior, impatient and violent, he curbs all of this in order to slowly woo Lark. It’s a wonderful courtship, helped out by two cute Fam kittens (Fams are telepathic cats or dogs, bonded with one human.) Both Lark and Holm have issues they must work through before they can commit to each other. Holm believes he is ready, but he has some deep fears of his own that he has to face. Lark’s issues are more external: as a healer, she doesn’t want to marry a warrior, the feud is becoming more violent, and she no longer considers herself a noble. She is, perhaps, a bit more stubborn than necessary.
Toward the end, Holm loses something powerfully important to him, which precipitates a crisis between the couple. Without the help of Lark and his friends, (all characters from the previous books) he might have given up. It’s in this area that Lark truly shines and becomes his HeartMate. (The HeartMate gift she gives to him is utterly priceless, and hysterical.)
The ties of family are central in this book. Lark’s estrangement from the Hawthornes, Holm’s relationship with his own parents and brother, and the ties that Lark and Holm have built with their friends all form a central theme. The end resolution of some of these relationships were surprising and poignant.
Although it’s not strictly necessary to read these three books in order (I didn’t), I think it helps the reader to do so in order to be familiar with the structure on Celta and – my favorite characters – the Fam animals. Although the first two books in this series were not favorites of their AAR reviewers (they earned a D+ and a B, respectively), all three have been placed on my keeper shelf. In fact, I’ve re-read the first two already, and this one will follow in short order. Run, don’t walk to the nearest bookstore and pick this one up, you won’t be disappointed!