Son of the Morning - Linda Howard 3.5 stars, but rounded up to 4 for a fantastic first 2/3 of the novel.

This was supposed to be a time-travel romance. But what I actually read was completely unexpected--and so much better! Barring some awkward plot twists towards the end, this was a good read.

The description of the book above is fairly accurate. Grace, an archeologist specializing in medieval languages, stumbles upon a set of documents relating to the great treasure of the Knights of the Templar. Soon after, a mysterious organization seeking the secrets of the treasure themselves try to kill Grace to steal the documents.

The second part about going to the past to find the Black Niall, not so much.

A majority of the book focused on Grace's development from a sheltered, bookish woman living in the suburbs to a hardened woman more than capable of defending herself on the streets. After the evil organization starts hunting her down, Grace is suddenly on the run with no money and no friends. She must learn to evade seasoned assassins by traveling along the road by night, hiding herself in crowds, and using public restrooms in gas stations to "clean up" after days of not showering. It was fascinating to read about Grace's transformation in a situation in which she had to either adapt quickly or die. The author did an excellent job navigating us through the seedier streets of the cities of the US, where violence and poverty is a part of everyday life.

That was the good part.

But when the time-travel elements started to seep into the story, the story turned awkwardly bizarre.

Grace, while on the run, is driven by her desire for vengeance and using the secret of the documents against the organization. The documents are connected to Black Niall, her main romantic interest. They interact across time through dreams, mostly. Even up until here, the story flowed smoothly.

When the time-travel aspect really started to gain speed, however, I was already 2/3 into the novel, comfortably situated in the story of a desperate woman who was hardening herself to fight against the dark organization that ruined her life. After almost starving to death and narrowly escaping the men hired to kill her, Grace finally finds a comfortable rhythm of moving from city to city, making up false identities, disguising herself, and learning to fight dirty. At this point, I just want to read a story about a woman kicking ass, not a woman falling head-over-heels in lust love over a guy she barely "knows".

The transition from the survival story to the love story was too quick and jarring, especially since the "survival" part was gritty and suspenseful, and the "love" part was like a regular romance novel. I felt like I was reading two separate novels.

The ending also left me unsatisfied. I won't spoil it, but rather than the kickass woman Grace had become, she was reduced to a damsel in distress, waiting for a big hunk of man to come resolve all her problems. While I don't usually mind damsel-in-distress scenarios, I felt a bit cheated in this case since I had watched Grace grow from a meek woman into one more than capable of fighting her own fights. Why did the author feel compelled to use Black Niall as the crutch? I just don't understand.

If the story had ended better, I would have been surer of my 4-star rating. However, while I hated the end, I loved the first 2/3, bumping my rating to a solid 3.5. Good story, Linda Howard. I just wish you told one story, rather than smooshing two together.