Son Of The Morning

Linda Howard
1997, Time Travel Romance
Pocket, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 067179938X

Grade: B+
Sensuality: Warm

Son Of The Morning is an interesting story to think about. It's certainly unlike anything I'm used to reading by Linda Howard, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. There are so many elements to this book, it's difficult to pinpoint exactly what type of story it really is. I wouldn't call it a romance in the purest sense, because the hero and heroine don't even meet face-to-face until page 281. But, if I were to think of it as a romance, I would have to say it has two heroes. I'm not even sure it's a time-travel, because that element doesn't appear until late in the story either, and when it does, it's approached with such plausible logic that it seems more a how-to-do-it rather than a can-it-be-done.

And, although labeled a contemporary, the historical information is so fascinating, I almost forgot about the hero, the heroine, and the plot. I was far more interested in concentrating on the history of the Knights Templar, the Church and various possible interpretations of the words or "actions" of God, and medieval politics, not to mention rampant intrigue and bitter betrayal.

The central character to this melodrama is meek, bookish, very happily married Grace St. John, an expert in translating antiquated languages. Grace arrives home one evening just in time to witness the shocking, out-of-the-blue murder of her husband and brother. The murderer is Parrish Sawyer, head of the antiquities Foundation for which Grace works. Although she escapes, Parrish makes certain it is Grace who is blamed for the murders, so Grace becomes a woman-on-the-run. In a matter of seconds, Grace's life is altered violently, and permanently, and she knows there's no going back. The earth has shifted on its axis; nothing that ever was will ever be again.

While the police eventually abandon their search for Grace, Parrish never does, for Grace has taken with her the papers he murdered her family in order to retrieve. The 14th Century documents contain information about the Guardian of the Treasure of the Knights Templar, and Parrish will not rest, and will not stop killing, until he gets his hands on those papers. The Treasure ensures incredible wealth and power, and Parrish will have it all.

Using all her skills as a translator, plus her vast resource of common sense, logic, and intelligence, Grace figures out the answer, all the while eluding the police, the murderer's thugs, street violence, starvation, and grief over the loss of her husband and brother. Grace's evolution from middle-class softy to street-smart survivor makes her one of the best heroine's Linda Howard has ever written.

Niall of Scotland, the Guardian named in the documents, initially meets Grace in his sexually-charged, recurring dreams. When they finally meet, he makes certain she is no fantasy and the result is your basic torrid love scene. But Niall isn't the only hero of this tale. Taking an equal share is Grace's husband, Ford Wessner. Sure, he died within the first few pages of the book, but it was his love for Grace, and his quiet courage, that kept Parrish from finding her. Though it cost him his life, he was a hero, and we get to know him through Grace's thoughts and memories so that, when she finally was able to go to his gravesite, her grief had become a palpable thing to me and the poignancy was heartbreaking and very personal.

I applaud Linda Howard's continuing efforts to stretch outside a well-established genre in which she has already proven herself successful. Son Of The Morning may not be for everyone, and I was a little disappointed that some the elements I have come to expect were missing from this book. This is essentially Grace's story, and the men she loves are almost incidental to her own evolvement and emerging strengths. However, it is a fascinating journey, action-packed and thought-provoking, and I would encourage anyone to give it a read.

-- Marianne Stillings

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