Grade : C+

When I first began reading this book, I thought I had a real keeper in my hands. But, as I continued through the story, my enthusiasm waned a bit. A little past midpoint, I completely lost interest and put the book down for a long time. That probably won’t happen to everyone … there is a lot to like about Starfinder, and I hope you’ll have a more fulfilling experience than I did.

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Ian Sutherland is about to be hanged. He has just witnessed the battlefield death of his older brother, Patrick (namesake to the hero of Starcatcher), and now is being forced to watch as his younger brother, Derek, bravely ascends the gallows to forfeit his life for the lost cause of Culloden. All are hanged that day, save for Ian, who is plucked from Death’s Door for reasons not revealed to him. This was an intensely emotional scene, and was truly painful to read.

Ian is transported to the Colonies where his indenture is sold to one John Marsh, a small farmer who is seriously ill and needs help with his wonderful horses and his crops, not to mention his wife, two young children, and mute, half-wild sister-in-law. John is an honest and kind man, though much older than his wife, and buys Ian’s papers with the intent of releasing the Scotsman from his bond many years earlier than the convict’s 14-year sentence dictates.

But Fate intervenes, and John dies the very night he returns home with Ian. The only thing that has enabled Ian to survive for the last year, is the hope that he can return to Scotland and find his young sister, Katy. When Marsh dies, Ian sees his chance to escape, but Marsh’s widow, Fancy, begs him to stay and help her. An illiterate woman alone in such a raw and untamed land is completely vulnerable to men and circumstance, and Fancy knows that without Ian’s help, she’ll lose everything. She might be able to cope, except that Robert Marsh, her late husband’s over-the-top evil brother, wants Fancy, her horses, and her land, and is willing to forge documents and employ brute force wherever necessary to attain his goals.

Ian is handsome and kind, and Fancy and her children, as well as her timid sister, cannot help but be drawn to him. Torn between his own familial loyalties, and the responsibility he feels to help this struggling woman, Ian agrees to stay just long enough to get the crops in, and teach the Marsh family how to read. Fancy is determined to never be cheated again, and learning to read is the key to her independence.

Ian is a courageous, thoughtful, complex, tortured hero, and the conflicts that tear at him are truly tormenting. Fancy is a feisty woman who will not give in to the elements that would take her freedom, or her family, from her. While Ian and Fancy are attracted to each other, and do fall in love, their relationship simply wasn’t compelling enough to keep me turning pages … the heat I look for in reading romance just didn’t spark for me here.

Since the story involves children, there were lots of the inevitable flying, crawling, or hopping pets in the vicinity. A cat named Unsatisfactory was my favorite. One silly problem I had was the lack of imagination the author used in naming the rest of the characters. The hero’s name is Ian, which means John. Fancy’s late husband’s name is John, and a close, family friend of Ian’s … who is like a brother to Ian … is named John, but, since he’s Scottish, he should have been called Ian. Three Johns in one story? A nit, I know, but odd just the same. Also, Colonial fashions (of 1747) were unique and could be quite severe, yet I never got a feel for what these people were wearing, especially the women. My mental picture of the characters was a little fuzzy as a result.

Well, the villain is certainly a bad one … the quintessential abusive slave-owner … and the remainder of the story focuses on attempts to deal with and outwit this cruel and calculating menace. All ends well, but I kind of didn’t care at that point. The oompf petered out for me several chapters earlier.

Ian and Fancy are believable characters who act in rational ways, and there’s a nice secondary romance that develops between Fortune and a neighboring lad, too. Because of the emotional impact the first few chapters held, I really wanted this book to go the distance. It had some nice moments, but not enough to sustain my interest through the whole story. However, Patricia Potter has a nice writing style and certain turns-of-phrase are very lyrical … very pretty. If you’re a fan, you’ll probably enjoy Starfinder.

Reviewed by Marianne Stillings

Grade: C+

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : October 22, 1998

Publication Date: 1998

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