HeartMates by Robin D. Owen Narrator: Noah Michael Levine #Review #AudioBook

HeartMates by Robin D. Owen Narrator: Noah Michael Levine #Review #AudioBookHeartMates by Robin D. Owen

Narrator: Noah Michael Levine
Series: #1 Celta
Genres: Fantasy Romance, Sci-Fi Romance
Published by Audible Studios on April 16, 2014
Pages: 12 hours 54 min
Format: Audiobook
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three-half-stars  

I chose this book because I was intrigued by the description in the blurb and was looking for new fantasy romance to try. This one is actually a blend of sci-fi and fantasy and I was enthralled with the world building, the colorful characters, the all-encompassing story and series arc, but at the same time I think there was a bit of first book in a series syndrome that kept it from being as sharp as it could be.

The world building is complex in that the people of the planet Celta are descendants of humans from earth. They seem to all have innate magic of some level. The power of the magic was what determined the class structure and the type of magic determined the houses of nobility. Some nobles seemed to even have more than one magical skill. The best way to describe it all is think Historical Romance set in Regency or Victorian London- rigid class structure, segregated sections of town, social season and coming out for the nobles as well as marriages brokered for convenience or for connection. The one glaring rarity is the Heart Mate (soulmate) connection. This is the version of marrying for love no matter what the other circumstances of the pair. And that is what is at the bottom of this story.

The story begins when a nobleman, T’Ash, finds his heartmate. T’Ash is an unusual noble in that he was born into a noble family, watched his family destroyed by magical fire from a betraying noble house that set them up as rivals, he escapes to survive in the worst part of the city, returns when he is old enough and powerful enough to exact a strong revenge on those who killed his family and is finally restore as Great Lord of his House of Ash. With the help of the Holly Noble House, he re-establishes himself as the sole member of his house, but he never quite fits in and he is suspicious and closed off from other nobles who are condescending and nervous around him. He is uncouth from his years living in the gutter and hides his sensitivity of feel less than by a foreboding manner. Unfortunately, his heartmate is as opposite of him as possible and she wants nothing to do with him even accusing him of seducing her with magic when he was just trying to court her with his heart gift.

Danith Mallow is middle class and she prizes her independence and control over her life. She has little magic, grew up in an orphanage after her parents were killed and found the strict, cold existence something she never wants again. She only wishes to make her own rules and go quietly through life surrounded by a family. She has even picked that family out and the man who won’t jostle her plans at all. She loves his folks, his sister and he is nice- staid, but nice. Into her serene world crashes Great Lord T’Ash and his rough street cat familiar, Zam Foxhill. T’Ash scares her and bewilders her with his smoldering, powerful personality. This man is not made for a calm, even home, relationship or partnership. He won’t just accept the trickle she is willing to put forth; he’ll push her to open herself entirely and that type of totally trust terrifies her not to mention the strong waves of attraction she doesn’t want to feel toward him. He pushes her to accept his forceful courtship insisting they are heartmates and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. And then he really sends her life in a whirl when he proves that she is actually more gifted with magic than she knew. Between T’Ash, her new status as a noble lady and all the changes she is confused, but most definitely not indifferent to the man with the rough manners and forceful personality. As she gets to know the man behind the title, she realizes that she is not the only one who struggles to open up and share the vulnerable tender feelings inside.

This was a book that I nearly put aside several times. I was only mildly engaged for a lot of it which was part of the problem, but the other part was that the heroine drove me crazy. As brutish and pushy as the hero is, I still liked him. He earned my respect for all that he had accomplished and the fact that he was open to having a heartmate. He was honorable and loyal to his friends. He put their needs first and from the moment he met Dannith, he put her first. Now did he go about things patiently and gently? No not at all. He was a real thorn and I would have been okay with her rejections if she were honestly indifferent instead of just in serious denial. T’Ash didn’t meet her profile for perfect hubby with the white picket fence and two point five kids and dog. She waffled between treating him like scum on the bottom of her shoe and freaking out that he was way high above her in status. It was hard to see her rip into him out of ignorance and her own fears, to watch her hit him where he was vulnerable time and again. She was awful to him and yet he kept trying. Honestly, this is the weakness of fated mates stories for me. I don’t mind the device, but yet unless I like both the players; I end up feeling pity that someone is stuck. Danith finally got her act together somewhere near the last ten percent of the book, but she never really won me over after all the dilly-dallying and lack of spine from earlier.

Now, beyond my issues with the heroine, the rest of the book had great potential. It took a while to get going and could get ponderous in explanation, but yet I’m not really sure how the author could have left it out because it was important much of the time. The world was so complex that the author did a pretty good job of not just dumping info, but the reader/listener does need to pay attention to keep from being confused.

The exciting moments were great. The fight scenes were mostly back alley stuff with street toughs, but I found them pretty thrilling. T’Ash is this huge warrior and I loved the moments in the scenes where he went all lethal protector on those who would attack him, Danith or his friends. He was also so tender and sweet when he cared for Danith in the aftermath. Be still my heart! I loved this guy and maybe that is why Danith’s rejections were such a strong irritant. Eventually, they got up to some sexy times. It was near the end that I was resolved to and even liked their pairing. They definitely are each other’s ying and yang by the time all was said and done.

Now, even though I had trouble sticking with this story a few times, the narrator, Noah Michael Levine, was actually part of what kept me going over my rough spots. He was a decided strength. He made the World of Celta come alive for me, he made all the details so fascinating and really engaged me with T’Ash and the other characters. His pacing was really good whether it was a quiet scene with T’Ash and his cat, Zam, T’Ash and Danith having a terse dialogue, a fight scene or a scene of passion. I would definitely listen to other books he narrates.

All in all, this one landed on the side of moderately enjoyable, but also left me with a desire to keep going with the series. I think a different heroine and maybe now that I’m passed all the first book explanations will really make the difference. I loved the blend of sci-fi and fantasy and would recommend it to others.

Literary Pickers #97 Couch

Romance Roundabout #96 FR

New to Me #52 Series

Audio #6

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • I don’t think I would like the characters, but if you’re willing to continue reading the story, I’ll await your verdict on book #2 before adding it or not to my list 😉 One more thing, the series is named Celta by the name of the planet, so I was disappointed to read in the blurb that it actually had nothing to do with the Celtic culture.

    • Good plan! I let others test drive books for me a lot. Saves me the hassle.

      Oh yeah, this is definitely not the Celtic culture. Truthfully, it feels like British Regency period other than the modern clothes and gadgets.

  • I didn’t like her Ghost Seed series much. I love the sound of this though! I will check out the ebook version

    • I look forward to seeing what you think since you’re already familiar with her books.

  • Hers tend to land that way with you don’t they? Or am I remembering the wrong series? I still have her Ghost Seer one for one day. Ahh!

    • LOL, yeah, I do seem a glutton for punishment. This is indeed the same author that has me undecided when it comes to her UF series, Ghost Seer. Believe it or not, the heroine in this one is also an accountant like the one in the other series. This one has a different personality. She’s all mild and dithery unless its T’Ash and then she’s snarly, emotional and unreasonable. And we’re talking for 80% of the book. I really didn’t see the attraction for him other than the fated mate thing.

      • Interesting! I wonder if the author was an accountant or connected to one. I think we all probably have an author like that and keep coming back for more 😀

        • Tis true! I have a couple of series and authors that I continue to read that aren’t favorites, but still likeable enough.

  • Sounds interesting and after reading the review and the comments about it, I’m likely to try this author now.

    • Yeah, other than the heroine, I really liked this. I’m hoping book two will be much better since there are different pairs for each story.
      Hope you get a chance to try it, Mary. I’d love to know what you think.

  • I haven’t read any of her books so I’m at lost, lols. But this does sound very interesting…maybe I’ll try it out. I like the whole heart mate thingy.

    • Yes, she has some interesting world building in this one. There is this ‘flare’ thing when you learn what your magic is, there is the ‘passage’ when you do some sort of dream quest thing and of course the ‘heart mate’ thing when you encounter your soulmate. There are lots of other special stuff too. She really put together a complicated world that still has lots of every day things too that are recognizable.

      • Do you think listening to the audio is better since there are so many things involved?

        • Actually, I’m torn on this answer. I really liked the narrator’s voice and storytelling ability yet this story had a ton of information about the Celta World. Audio seems to be less forgiving of pacing problems and info dumps (okay and annoying characters) than reading it for myself. I never realize how much I use the power to skim until I started listening to books where I got every word.

          • Omg, I totally agree Sophia about the pacing of the audios. There was one audio I was listening too and I was thinking how the heck can i bypass some parts.

            Okay, the book maybe better for this one especially with so much of the world being covered.

            Thanks!

            • Yeah, I won this one at April’s blog as an audio or I probably would have read it too. I’m really just getting into audios and so far I listen when I’m doing chores, but I can’t just Only listen to them or I fall asleep. Haha!

  • I don’t think this would be my thing, but great thoughtful and detailed review!

    • Appreciate it, Lorna! Not every book is for everybody that is for sure.

  • I actually liked this one, but some of the other books in the series I had a hard time getting into. I feel like she is either a hit or miss. Great review though hun, and I also adored the hero too.

    • I liked it, but got impatient. That might be because I read a ton faster than even the narrator on double speed. But the big thing was the heroine for me. She drove me nuts. I definitely want to keep going to see if a book without all the set up and a different heroine will make the difference.

  • Lola R

    I haven’t read a lot of sci-fi fantasy genre combinations so far, if the world building is done right and makes sense it can be a fun mix of genres. And the plot with how the people on Celta are descendants form earth sounds fun too! The heroine sounds annoying, it’s always a shame when you do like one of the characters, but can’t seem to like the other. It makes the romance more enjoyable when you like both characters.

    • The blend was a good one with new planet for the sci-fi and all the magic in their culture adding the fantasy. I plan to try more to get a different romance and hopefully like it better.