Heart of the Dove
Medieval romances aren’t exactly crowding the shelves of bookstores nowadays, so I was happy to pick one up for review. With Heart of the Dove, Tina St. John concludes her Dragon Chalice series.
Rand of Greycliff has only one purpose in life now: revenge. Two months ago, the evil knight Silas de Mortaine sent soldiers who were half man, half wolf beings to raid Rand’s keep for a key in his possession that leads to a piece of the Dragon Chalice, a cup yielding great wealth and power. The changeling beings coerced Rand to give up the key and, more tragically, killed his wife and young son. Silas may have already one piece of the Chalice and now the key, but he doesn’t know that Rand holds two pieces of the Chalice. Rand plans to avenge his dead wife and son by searching for the final piece of the Chalice in its purported location in Scotland, then use the pieces to lure Silas to him – knowing in advance that he will not survive the deadly confrontation.
On the voyage to Scotland, a changeling spy discovers him. Rand manages to kill him, but their struggle throws them overboard, and he washes up on a beach somewhere in England. A young woman stumbles across him, but ignores Rand’s plea for help and runs away.
Serena has her reasons for not helping Rand. She has the gift of Knowing (an apt title); if she touches a person, she will know all of his (or her) innermost feelings and thoughts, and feel the pain of them, too. Because her mother feared that people might use Serena’s gift for ill, she kept Serena away from all people since her birth and settled them into an unpopulated forest near the sea. She especially warned Serena about dangers posed by men – greed, violence, and wickedness.
Serena’s mother forbids Serena to help the wounded man, and at first, Serena obeys her command, but guilt drives her to the beach later, only to find a revived and furious Rand, because the bag holding the Chalice pieces is missing. Rand cannot continue on to Scotland without the pieces and, since both women deny stealing his bag, he decides to stay there with them and recover from his wounds while searching the beach for the pieces.
Tina St. John takes a familiar plotline and familiar characters – tortured hero bent on revenge, innocent heroine, an isolated setting where the two get to know each other and fall in love – and adds absolutely nothing new to the mix. Serena realizes Rand is an honorable man; Rand appreciates to Serena’s sweet and generous-hearted ways. Yada, yada, yada. Still, St. John’s strong writing and the paranormal element of the Chalice elevate the pedestrian story. The hero and heroine may be run of the mill, but the author crafts an emotionally satisfying path to love for them. They have hot, but tender love scenes.
I was sleepily enjoying the story until an unbelievable TSTL move by Serena jolted me out of my lethargy. In an attempt to help Rand after he has left the forest and is in the nearby village arranging travel to Scotland, Serena approaches the governing baron there and informs him that Silas is an evil man. She believes, bless her naïve heart, that the baron will take her word and punish Silas for the terrible deeds he has committed. She believes this, after hearing warnings all her life from her mother of the untrustworthiness of men, and even from Rand that it is true of some men. Naturally, Silas, whom the baron happens to be entertaining, turns the tables easily on Serena and has her sentenced to death for witchcraft, thereby requiring the handsome knight in love with her to come charging to her rescue.
This, along with problems concerning the key, a demise of a villain, Rand disrobing in front of Serena and her mother (what was the point of the scene?), and Serena riding a horse, when considering her life of isolation it’s highly unlikely that she has ever done so before, caused the grade for Heart of the Dove to fall precipitously
Three of Tina St. John’s medievals have earned DIK status here at AAR, but her latest series has had lukewarm grades – this B- is the highest of the three. Have her creative batteries run out for the medieval period? I hope not. I hope this talented writer produces a stronger book in her next one.