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Review: Heart Secret by Robin D. Owens

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Heart Secret
Author: Robin D. Owens 
Release Date: Aug. 7, 2012
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Celta’s Heartmates #11
ISBN: 978-0425253144
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Futuristic Fantasy
Format(s): Paperback (368 pgs), e-book
Book Source: Publisher
About the book:
On the faraway planet Celta, there are some things you can never tell—until someone discovers your Heart Secret…
When a virulent disease killed the woman he loved and her baby, Garrett Primross was left alive, a reluctant survivor. Now, as a private eye, he strives to banish the memories of his past and rebuild his life. The Healers of Celta have something else in mind: Discover why he survived.
He is monitored by Healer Artemisia Panax—his HeartMate, a love he never pursued. Still mourning his loss, he refuses to acknowledge her. Since her family was publicly disgraced, she’s used to such treatment. She wants nothing more than to guard her livelihood and protect the secrets she’s sworn to keep.
Thrown together by duty, Garrett and Artemisia find the body of the last Black Magic Cultist who ruined her family. Suspicion flares, but they have little choice but to investigate the crime together. When their own lives are placed in danger, they realize that denying their HeartMates is only denying their own future.
What VampBards talking about:
Heart Secret, Robin D. Owens’ eleventh title in her Celta series, was packed with drama, intrigue and the initially reluctant hero and heroine thrown together in a struggle to eradicate a dangerous illness.  Where the typical Healer/patient relationship ends, their struggle to be true to themselves begins.  Sooo nice to be transported back to Celta again!
From the onset of the story, Ms. Owens took her readers on a roller coaster ride.  It seemed as though Garrett, our hero, and Artemisia, our heroine, took one step forward and two steps back in their relationship for most of the title.  I found myself glued to the pages, and cheering for Garrett to pull his head out of his arse and bond with Artemisia, already!  64%… 75%… yup.  I’m commenting as I go, ‘get your act together, man!’  I really enjoyed reading along as this destined couple got to know one another.  It was also pretty awesome to cheer on the hero, knowing that eventually Ms. Owens would give in and let us see the reservations each character had fade until the only tangible relationship for them would be as HeartMates.  
Garrett is an emotionally and physically strong dude.  Having been through hell and back with the Iasc sickness several years in the past.  He was the sole survivor, the rest of the ‘village’ decimated.  Including his first love and her infant.  The man was totally living with ghosts of the past.  In agreeing to undergo the sickness a second time, Garrett knew he was subjecting himself to reliving that horrible experience.  What made this medical experiment different from the actual sickness was that his HeartMate would be with him.  I think Garrett was unsure as to whether he would be able to handle all the emotions tied to the Iasc outbreak as well as having to hide the fact that Artemisia was his HeartMate (it’s illegal for him to tell her).  The inner conflict and turmoil Garrett endured was heartbreaking.  Afraid to love again, Garrett denied himself the bond with his HeartMate that could have made all the wrongs in the world right for years.  The boy was hung up on a ghost, and the memory of the sickness didn’t help matters.  I think Garrett didn’t want to dump his version of messed-up on another person.  His problems were his alone, and he’d deal with them.  Martyr syndrome.
Artemisia (I love that name!), a Second Level Healer, was assigned to oversee the experiment that could create a remedy for Iasc sickness, saving the population of Celta.  Unfortunately, her family had been falsely disgraced, and her gifts and talents were unrecognized by those in power.  With low self-esteem anyway, Artemisia followed orders and put her own life in jeopardy by tending the needs of Garrett when the sickness was reintroduced to his system. She collected blood and other bodily fluids for research purposes. She tried to make him as comfortable as possible, yet he still suffered during the project.  Artemisia felt expendable. Blown away by a secret kept by Garrett, Artemisia sought counseling, so she could move on with her life.  Surprise abounds in final quarter of Heart Secret.  
Besides the Iasc sickness, Garrett and Artemisia have a murder on their hands.  The Guard (local cops) are less than objective in this matter, and Garrett – a private investigator – is asked to lead the investigation.  Yup.  This dead dude is part of the group that put Artemisia’s family in a bad light to the rest of the community.  That made her and her family suspect.  I really enjoyed the way Garrett used the feral FAMs (familiars) to acquire knowledge.  We got to see his softer, compassionate side when he was engaged with the FAMs.  
Within this stellar world Ms. Owens has created, readers of the Celta series are familiar with the Residences, intelligent homes that assist those with which they’ve accepted with activities of daily living.  The first Residence we meet in Heart Secret is Turquoise House, TQ for short.  TQ was the setting for the experiment that documented Garrett’s reaction to the Iasc sickness.  Early on in TQ’s relationship with Artemisia and Garrett, he gave them the honor of going to his HouseHeart, the soul of the Residence.  The spell and password to get to the passage that led to the HouseHeart was beautiful:

Home is where the Heart isMy HouseHeart is Home,Is Me,Home, Home, HomeFor the right FamilyUs  (p. 54)

I really thought that this was a chunk of foreshadowing.  Um.  No.  Ms. Owens threw me for a loop.  Kudos.  Artemisia’s Residence was also a character.  Protective and wanting only what is best for Artemisia, it’s crotchety demeanor made me chuckle and then say ‘awwww’ in the next breath.  
I think Garrett hooked me with this passage:

And without her, the day dimmed and he became aware of an awful ache and a terrible hollowness, and the idea that he’d made a hideous mistake.  (p. 173)

Powerful stuff.  Ms. Owens totally brings it in Heart Secret;  this title had me on the edge of my seat, rooting for the good guys, and crossing my fingers that all would be right with the world.  Definitely one of my favorite titles of Summer 2012.
VampBards Rating
Loved it – enthusiastically recommend (A)


Purchase Info:
Heart Secret
Reviews in the Series:
Heart Search: Book 10 
Hearts and Swords: Anthology 

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