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review 2020-06-27 03:14
Heart Change by Robin D. Owens
Heart Change - Robin D. Owens
Content warning: Animals in peril, and one of the main characters has suicidal thoughts at the beginning of the book.
Signet D'Marigold believes she is doomed to be alone. Her parents died during her Third Passage, and none of her friends have ever stayed by her side or kept in touch for long. No one has ever been able to figure out what her Flair is, so she feels useless and lonely until the young prophet, Vinni T'Vine, tells her he's had a vision that her Flair can help his young brain-damaged HeartMate, Avellana Hazel, survive her First Passage.
Signet isn't the only person enlisted to help Avellana. Cratag Maytree, a personal guard for the T'Hawthorn Family, is hired to be Avellana's bodyguard. Cratag is secretly hurt to be hired out like this - he thought T'Hawthorn valued him more, and he'd prefer to be there for Laev Hawthorn's upcoming Passage. Still, he'll do as he's told, and he's certainly looking forward to spending time around Signet. He'd met her several times before and been attracted to her, but he's sure a beautiful and well-bred lady like her couldn't possibly feel the same about a man like him, a scarred outsider with little Flair.
The last time I read anything in this series was back in 2016: Heart Quest, which didn't hold up as well as I'd hoped but which is still one of my top favorites in the series, and Heart Dance, which I loathed. Rereading my review of Heart Dance reminded me of a lot of the things about Celtan society I've come to dislike, and I was glad that HeartGifts were barely mentioned in Heart Change.
I'd most recommend this book to people who are already fans of this series. Readers finally get a bit more progression in the Vinni and Avellana's storyline. I admit, I both enjoy this aspect of the series and am put off by it. In this book, Vinni is 13 and Avellana is 7. They're friends, but everyone knows they're also HeartMates - it makes me a bit uncomfortable that their lives are mapped out so early. Also, yes, this series does eventually work up to a book where Vinni and Avellana are both adults and stars of their own romance. Heart Change is as far as I've gotten, and I'm not entirely sure I want to work my way up to a romance novel starring characters I know best as children.
Anyway, in this book readers finally got to see Avellana make it past her first Passage and learn what her Flair is. However, there was of course a primary romance story, and that involved Signet and Cratag. I liked the basic setup: Signet, the lonely heroine who wanted someone in her life who wouldn't abandon her and who wasn't quite the ethereal and untouchable princess that Cratag imagined her to be, and Cratag, the rough fighter who secretly yearned for a place where he could belong and be needed. Cratag had previously been attracted to her from afar but hadn't thought those feeling would ever be mutual.
I figured he and Signet would spend some time awkwardly circling each other before flirting a bit and then eventually ending up in bed. Instead, they were kissing within a day or two of living in the same house together, and the only thing that kept them from falling into bed right away was Avellana. Luckily for them, Avellana liked schedules and could mostly be convinced to stay away long enough for a sex scene to happen.
I really wish the romance had been paced more slowly. As it was, it felt like they were all over each other way too soon considering they both had abandonment issues, and the story began to drag. Cratag's sudden withdrawal near the end didn't make much sense, and then the resolution happened way too quickly and easily.
The storyline with Laev wasn't much better. The way Laev's supposed HeartMate and her family acted should have been a giant red flag, but the whole HeartMate thing seems to destroy some characters' brains. I see that Laev is the hero of Book 10, Heart Search, and the thought of reading his story is only slightly less unpleasant to me than the thought of reading Tinne Holly's (the guy whose HeartMate was married to a much older and abusive man when she was a child).
I don't know that this is a series I'm ever going to finish. I think I can make it through the one other book I own that I haven't yet read, but I doubt I'll ever make it to Vinni and Avellana's book. The aspects of this series that used to work for me are starting to get overshadowed by the stuff that doesn't - the slight cheesiness (the Marigold family tap dances in order to enter their HouseHeart) and the way the world is set up (certain characters use HeartGifts in ways that qualify as sexual assault, divorce is difficult to obtain even though it's apparently easy for unethical people to trap people into horrible marriages). Even the cats are hit or miss, although I do still love the Residences (sentient homes run by AI). Heart Change's cats were among the good ones - Beadle was a clumsy sweetie, and Du wasn't quite as haughty as most of the series' other Fams and had a backstory that made me want to give him a hug.
One final comment: I don't know who the person on the cover is supposed to be, but he isn't Cratag. It's mentioned several times that Cratag's hair is shaved close to his skull, and I don't think that tattoo is accurate either. Also, I doubt Cratag would be stupid enough to hold weapons like that, even if he was repeatedly dumb enough to leave Avellana alone despite having been hired to be her bodyguard.
A character list, which was helpful, and a map, which I never even glanced at.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)
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text 2020-06-26 05:17
Reading progress update: I've read 368 out of 368 pages.
Heart Change - Robin D. Owens

Geez, Booklikes is working slowly for me tonight. Anyway, I finished this, so that's another $3 for me.


I'd recommend this to fans of the series because of the progression in the Vinni and Avellana storyline, but the romance between Signet and Cratag was weak. The pieces were there, but they didn't fit quite right. Also, this felt like it could have been shorter.

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text 2020-06-22 18:03
Reading progress update: I've read 188 out of 368 pages.
Heart Change - Robin D. Owens

As long as I don't think too hard about how fast the romance has progressed, I like it. Lonely heroine who thinks she's doomed to have everyone she loves leave her, hero who wants a place where he's needed and welcomed. But yeah, it really doesn't make sense that they've fallen all over each other so fast, even considering that they'd met a few times prior to this book. It only took maybe a day for the kissing and heated looks to start.


The non-romance storyline is nice because it ties in with an overarching series plotline that I'd thought Owens might save for the end of the series, although a quick Goodreads check indicates that it's going to take another 8 books for Vinni and Avellana to be old enough to star in their own book. I'm not sure how I feel about a romance novel starring characters that were first introduced in the series as children.

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text 2020-06-22 00:28
Reading progress update: I've read 64 out of 368 pages.
Heart Change - Robin D. Owens

Actual frequent on-page dialogue! It's a breath of fresh air after The Saga of Tanya the Evil.


That said, I've just been smacked in the face by one of the problems with this series, its unintentional cheese factor. Noble families have sentient homes, with the AI housed in a place known as the HouseHeart (edit: I just realized that some of this info might be wrong, since the HouseHeart has a female voice but the public area has a male voice, huh). They're protected rooms, so there are special ways to open them. The Marigold family HouseHeart can be accessed by...tap dancing. This is taken utterly seriously. There are traditional shoes, stored in a special cubby.

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text 2020-06-21 16:12
Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 368 pages.
Heart Change - Robin D. Owens

I chose this for my "author whose first or last name begins with a letter in LOVE" book. I was going to read Heart Journey but was checking the series order, and of the two books I own in this series that I haven't yet read, this one came first. Although the romances in these are self-contained, they do tend to reference lots of events and characters in previous books, so I figured it would be better to read them more in order.


That said, I'm flat out skipping Book 7, Heart Fate, the one with the 23-year-old guy and 17-year-old girl who was married to an abusive man when she was only 14. That's just a no from me.


Heart Change has been in my collection long enough to develop some sun damage from my terrible book storage practices. I don't recall ever being all that invested in this book's main characters when they were side characters in other books, so I'm guessing this will end up on my offload pile when I'm done.

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