Heart Secret

Robin D. Owens
August 2012, Fantasy Romance
Berkley, $15.00, 368 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425253147
Part of a series

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Warm

Sometimes it's difficult to quit a series, especially when you have read all of the books, plus there is just something so endearing about talking telepathic animals. Even so, the last few books in this series have been fairly ordinary reads for me and I found it easy to put this book down. I also have also gotten jaded about the heartmate theme.

Artemisia Mugwort’s family suffered a disgrace when incense that they used connected them to the Black Magic Cult murders. Because of the false accusations, her family lost everything. Living in poverty, they are given the honor of becoming caretakers for an ancient sentient Residence and the sanctuary of Druida City. Artemisia now works at Healing Hall, using a distant family name. However, the head of the hall knows her history and treats her with disdain, so it is no surprise when she is ordered to monitor a patient due to be infected with a highly contagious disease. Still, Artemisia doesn’t hesitate.

Garrett Primross hasn’t been able to forget the horrific event surrounding the death of his childhood sweetheart Dinni and her child, as well as twenty other individuals. After the researchers at Healing Hall determined that they were dealing with a virulent illness, the Hall decided that the infected needed to be quarantined in a remote location. Due to Dinni’s pleading, Garrett agreed to transport them. Only five survived the trip, and of those five only he still lived. The illness –called Iasc sickness - quickly spread to the general population starting an epidemic. His status as a survivor makes Garret a valuable commodity. And when the disease breaks out again, First Level Healer Ura Heather wants to expose him to the illness again, so they can monitor how he is able to fight it off. Two things sway his opinion. One, the renowned prophet of Celta asked him to cooperate with the healers, and two, Artemisia is his Heartmate. He believes that seeing him at his worst will give her a disgust of him which is good, because he has no desire to claim her. He can’t forget Dinni.

If you love the fams(talking animals) there are plenty here. Garrett feeds feral animals and in return they provide him with information which is especially helpful for him as a private investigator. Of course Artemisia and Garrett find their own fam, too. Continuing the fantasy of anthropomorphism, the sentient residences play a part in the story. Sometimes their role in the story felt balanced and then other times, they seemed a detriment to the plot and romance.

One thing that seems to be missing compared to previous books, which absence I appreciated, is the repetitious aspect of certain phrases. I really had gotten tired of reading merry meet and merry part and merry meet again.

The romance between Garrett and Artemisia is lukewarm, though. Maybe it is because instead of being compelled to find his Heartmate, like former heroes in the series, Garrett wants to reject his. Another reason could be that as the world building has become more extensive, more characters pop in and out and the fams seem to have a larger role.

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Plus, speaking of series, I barely remember Artemisia and her family even though they appeared in at least two different books. I vaguely remember the Black Cult Murders and when the Mugwort family moved into the secret sanctuary. However, I kept trying to remember more, even though Ms. Owen did recap the highlights of the story.

I think if you are a fan of this series, then you probably have read or are planning on reading the book. Depending what made you gravitate to the world of Celta, you might be satisfied. My problem is with the fact that the book doesn’t break any new ground. Still I knew what to expect, and in that regard Ms. Owen’s doesn’t disappoint.

-- Leigh Davis

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