The third book in the Celta series, published April 2004.
Healer Lark Collinson hates the street duelling that is a way of life among the noble families on Celta -- it was just such a skirmish that killed her Healer husband and left her a grieving widow. The last thing she wants is to love a man to whom fighting is a way of life -- a man like the brashly confident Holm Holly.
All it takes is one brief touch for Holm to know that Lark is his HeartMate, though wooing her will be his greatest challenge. For not only does she despise everything he represents, but the long-standing feud between their families has exploded into even greater violence. Their destiny has been revealed...but at what cost to their own hearts?
Mayblossom Larkspur Bella Hawthorn Collinson, first daughter of T’Hawthorn hates her first name, and is mostly called Lark. She is a rare first grade Healer, and against the wishes of her father, she married a commoner, who had enough Flair to become a first grade Healer as well. But he died three years ago in a stupid duel by some nobles, and ever since Lark despises the nobles. They are thoughtless, and reckless and care for nothing but their own wants.
But she is lonely, and both her father T’Hawthorne as her maternal grandfather T’Heather have asked her to come live with them. Lark likes her freedom and really doesn’t want to do that, but she may have no choice in the matter. Her grandfather is also her boss, head of the Healers, and even though she has applied for the head Healer position in another city, her grandfather has a lot to say about that.
And now there is Holm Holly, determined to wiggle his way into her life. Yes, there is a lot of heat between them, but there is also an escalating feud between their two families, their fathers hate each other. So what does he want with her? He can have whomever he wants in his bed.
Holm Holly, HollyHeir, the first son and heir of T’Holly. His parents are HeartMates, and his three Passages have not revealed the existence of one for him, so he has known all along that he would have to marry for alliances. But now it seems he does have a HeartMate. She is apparently an older soul than he is, and he had to grow to find her in this life. And his involuntary journey with his brother Tinne in the previous book did the trick. He has found his HeartMate, but the wooing will certainly not be easy. Lark hates fighters as a Healer, and she dislikes nobles because her husband died for no reason at all, but wanting to stop a duelling pair. He is fighting her family, her father, her brother and cousins, because of the feud between them. He has no choice, as he is considered the best fighter on Celta.
The young T’Vine, the new and very powerful Seer, gives both Lark and Holly a kitten, two brothers. He knows about their HeartMate status, and tells Holly they will help him in his courtship. And so Holly sets out to court Lark, whom he calls Bella. She hates her firstname Mayflower, and he wants to call her something else, something no one else has named her before, especially her late husband. He sets out to impress her, which is also not a simple thing to do. He overwhelms her with gifts, hundreds of roses, lovely pastries (which his kitten gets to first), music written by his mother, and finally some lovely calligraphy texts, which is his other less well known talent. Lark loves to sail, solar sail that is, with wings and air currents, while Holm prefer sailing the sea in a boat. So when he joins her and her former sister in law, he wears a really outdated costume, and has to spend a lot of Flair used to stay airborne. But he improves rapidly, until an accident happens and it is Lark who saves them all. His ego just can’t handle that.
Then D’Holly gets stabbed by Lark’s young nephew, the FirstSon of HawthornHeir, and the feud escalates. Lark has to spend all her Healing Flair and time trying to heal D’Holly, and so do a lot of other Healers. But to no avail, as the dagger was poisoned with something unknown and a spell. Holm sees his father’s suffering when his HeartMate is dying, and knows if he loses his mother, his father will follow within the year, as so is the HeartMate Bond. Does he really want this for himself? The Bond between him and Lark is strong, but not irrevocable yet. So when he has finally made up his mind, he goes for it, not caring for Lark’s protests. He will win his Lady.
I liked Lark a lot in this story. She is strong and independent, and she thinks of the consequences of her actions with Holm, something Holm really doesn’t care about. I found him selfish a lot, and very demanding of her. She has to allow him to touch her, physically, or mentally so he will know what she feels and/or thinks. He is the guy who won’t take no for an answer, but he does not cross the line into forcing her. He also doubts himself too much to my liking. He has this picture of himself that he has to be perfect, and his younger brother has rescued him instead of he rescuing his brother, which really bothers him. And so he SleepShifts (instead of sleepwalking) to the Great Labyrinth.
I liked this different side of the world, Lark who can easily start her own GreatHouse, but is content working with the poor, Healing them. And arrogant Holm Holly, who really gets toned down in the end.
Of course, we meet the previous main characters again in this book, and had two new adorable kittens to love and laugh at. I am really curious about the next book, not a clue who those heroes will be.
Have I mentioned before, that this society is loosely based on Wicca, when Earth Wiccans left to create their own world? With lots of Celtic names used for the towns and other places? With rituals, honouring the Goddess and the God? Rituals of Healing?