by Anna Campbell
Hey, today's my birthday! Just thought I'd share that enormously exciting fact - and also let you know that I'm open to offers of cake and champagne (and cash - cash is ALWAYS welcome!).
So having made that totally gratuitous announcement, let's get down to the nitty gritty about today's Second Helping book. SON OF THE MORNING by Linda Howard is such an unusual romance novel!
For a start, it treads some of the same territory (and for this reader in a much more interesting way) as THE DA VINCI CODE. You know, Templars and treasures and ancient conspiracies and people racing against time to save the world. Whoo-eeeee! This is a fabulous adventure story. Not to mention romantic suspense, time travel, historical and paranormal. Lots of genres to keep you interested in this one!
When I first read this book (it was published in 1997 when I'd developed a real obsession with Linda Howard's books), it blew me away. I re-read it for this review and it still packs a mega punch. And the last 100 or so pages will leave you absolutely breathless as it races to a very satisfying conclusion.
Ancient language specialist Grace St. John's life explodes into tragedy and danger one night when unknown gunmen murder her husband and brother and leave evidence that Grace was responsible. Only a stroke of good luck saves Grace from being inside the house and among the dead. Instead she's standing outside and sees everything, including who's responsible for the crime, her billionaire employer Parrish Sawyer.
Grace immediately goes on the run, desperate to discover why she's been targeted and why the documents she's working on are important. Grace is a really interesting character (which is a good thing because most of the story is centered on her). She starts off as a gentle, scholarly woman deeply in love with her husband and fascinated by her work translating ancient manuscripts for a scholarly foundation. When she stumbles across a manuscript that contains mysterious snippets of information about the Holy Grail, the medieval order of the Knights Templar in the 14th century, and a compelling historical character called the Guardian, she doesn't realize that she's trespassed upon the foundation's evil purpose to steal the Templars' power and rule the world.
This bit could have been silly but Linda Howard manages to make us believe in Grace's transformation from sweet innocent to hardened renegade. Mostly because we believe in Grace's smarts. She mightn't be street-wise but she's clever and frightened enough to learn how to survive below the radar. All the time, Parrish's men pursue her relentlessly. There are some seriously suspenseful scenes as they edge closer and closer to Grace.
Heartbroken over her husband's death - I really liked that Grace genuinely loved her first husband - the strange other-worldly connection she established with a 14th century Scotsman makes her feel like she's betraying Ford's memory. But her dreams and visions of the man who turns out to be Black Niall, guardian of the Templar treasure, help her survive the tragedy and torments of her current life. Some of these dream scenes are extremely steamy which is a good thing. You've probably gathered by now that the hero and heroine of SON OF THE MORNING don't meet in bodily form until well into the book when Grace time travels back to Niall's era. I told you this was an unusual romance!
When they finally meet, wow, the love scenes are absolutely explosive (no jokes, please, LOL!).
Niall is a compelling hero, ahead of his time but not beyond the realms of what's believable. And who doesn't love a dark, tortured, sexy Scotsman who can wield a claymore and everything else with breathtaking skill? Snicker.
SON OF THE MORNING kept me glued to its pages from beginning to end. It's a genuine rollercoaster ride of action and emotion. I loved the way Grace becomes a different woman through bitter experience, capable of falling in love with the sort of man who has never crossed her path before. At the start of the book, Grace and Niall are no match for each other. By the end, they're perfect equals. The story is exciting, passionate and romantic with all of Linda Howard's trademark sizzling sensuality (even if some of that takes place in dream scenes, which works!).
So do you have a favorite Linda Howard romance? Do you have a favorite Scottish hero? Do you think you'd survive on the run from baddies with limitless resources?