Heart Duel
by Robin D Owens, futuristic (2004)
Berkley, $6.50, ISBN 0-425-19658-5


Robin D Owens' Heart Duel makes me fear that I will sprout pink fur, whiskers, and teddy bear ears and start calling myself Sunshine WillowSmile. If I do, I'm heading over to the author's house and squirt her with a beam of happy sunshine from my belly button, right before I move in with Barney the Dinosaur into the house next door and drive her crazy with our continuous playing of the soundtrack of Barney's Great Adventure.

Because Heart Duel is Unbearably! Cutesy! Girly! Precious!

The Hawthornes and the Hollys are enemies that have spent years reenacting a Highland feud thing, which proves to me that you can set the story at a distant planet, but you can never escape authors that don't do that original and creative thing in their books. In this book, the cringe-inducingly named Mayblossom Larkspur Hawthorne Collinson - Lark - is a healer that spends her whole life healing everybody that comes along, until one day she chances upon Holm Holly in the healing hall where she spends her life trying to find a clue and self-esteem in. Holm is the HollyHeir - the first of many Cutesy! Precious! Pink Ribbonsy Bunnylike! names in this book - so that makes him Lark's enemy. But they are HeartMates - oh no! So Holm must now woo Lark, but Lark refuses. She is okay about having an affair with him though, with predictable and tedious consequences.

Ms Owens patterns this story after Romeo And Juliet but her characters come off as obstinate and too fixed in a standard and predictable action course of stupidity, especially Lark, who seems incapable of using her brain and think instead of just reacting with knee-jerk emotional impulsiveness to every situation. Lark lets everyone else intrude in her decision making, resulting in a slow and tedious story where the heroine takes too long to see the obvious thanks to her own obtuseness. In this case, the HeartMate bond is the only reason I can see as to why these two should even get a happy ending - they are both clueless about everything else and just behave like standard nitwit characters I've come across in too many romance novels. That and those horrible psychic KittyFams. Between the horribly cutesy names that come off like porn star names in a furry fetish catalogue and the ten-year old girl voice permeating the author's writing, my blood sugar is shooting up to dangerous levels.

But like the author's previous books, there is always one scene or two that hints at the fact that Robin D Owens is not the publishing house CEO's fifteen-year old daughter publishing under a pseudonym. In this case, I really enjoy the way the author isn't afraid to wrap up the family feud in this book in a bittersweet manner. Of course, the cynical part of me suggests that it is just to facilitate at least two more sequels to the series, but still, I like this relatively mature aspect of Heart Duel. It's too bad that I can't say the same for almost every other page of this book.

Rating: 52


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