by Jennifer Blake

August 1995
ISBN: 0-449-14734-7
Reviewer Graphic Button Ballantine Books
Mass Market Paperback

Jennifer Blake is known for her descriptive imagery and southern United States settings, particularly Florida and Louisiana, and Arrow to the Heart is no exception from what we have come to expect from this seasoned author. The story begins with Katrine Castlereagh’s reluctance to participate in her husband’s annual medieval based tournament of skill. Katrine’s husband, Giles, has never been able to be a husband in the true sense to Katrine and because of his obsessive compulsion for an heir, he has deemed, unbeknownst to the players, that this year’s tournament winner will also be the one to beget a child on Katrine. Katrine has always tried to be an obedient, faithful wife despite the fact that her father arranged her marriage to Giles, a man much older than she, for financial reasons. However, this is one instance where she is determined not to submit to Giles’ wishes, especially when she meets the man likely to win the tournament, Rowan de Blanc.

Rowan came to Katrine and Giles’ estate, Arcadia, to seek the real reason behind his half-brother’s death that took place at last year’s tournament. Rowan believes that his brother had a secret love affaire with Katrine and is determined not to be seduced by her beauty and charm and instead uncover the adulteress woman he assumes must lie underneath. Rowan is aware that Katrine does not want him to be the winner of the tournament, which only causes him to try that much harder to succeed to see what she may be hiding. But when he is crowned the champion, he is shocked at the real reason behind Katrine’s woe at his victory – that her husband wants Rowan to bed Katrine until she becomes pregnant.

Katrine and Rowan both have their own reasons for wanting to thwart Giles’ plans for them, but will they be able to fight against their own desires? And when it becomes apparent that there is a murderer on the loose and that Katrine is the target, will Rowan be able to leave her to face the consequences of their actions?

Seeped in mystery and the medieval flavor of the tournaments, Arrow to the Heart is a novel that is bound to appeal to many readers. I found that the premise of a husband giving his wife to another to get an heir, and even the names of the characters, added to the medieval feel of this historical novel set in the 1800’s. The plot was an interesting concept that had its erotic moments, but I felt that Ms. Blake could have done more with that aspect of the story. There was so much sexual tension involved with both Katrine and Rowan trying to deny their feelings for each other despite Gile’s scheming to throw them together in all sorts of imaginative ways, that the moment where Katrine and Rowan actually give in to their desires was almost a letdown.

The mystery in the story was very well written. I never suspected the murderer and the revelation of whom and why was an unexpected surprise. The supporting characters brought the novel to life, as did the intricate details of the tournament and the setting. However, I felt as though the reader could have learned more about Katrine and Rowan’s backgrounds and their personalities as the main characters. I found it a bit unrealistic that Katrine could have such strong morals in the beginning of the novel to so adamantly oppose Giles’ wishes, but then after the deed was done, she shows little remorse or guilt over the fact.

In summary, I found Arrow to the Heart to be a novel worthy of Ms. Blake’s esteemed name, being well written and characteristic of her books, but unfortunately not her best work.

Reviewed in November 2002 by Nicole.

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