Sunday, March 13, 2011

Merely Magic by Patricia Rice

 Plot: Ninian Malcolm is a country witch who has been taking care of the local villagers for the last few years. The job of midwife handed down to her by her now dead grandmother.
Drogo Ives is an earl who's only private time is hunting the skies for new planets, when he's not providing for his brothers and their children.
Legends say that Malcolms and Ives are meant to keep apart or else the curse that flows through both families will destroy everyone in their path.
Drogo does not believe in curses or witches. He does however believe it's nearly time to settle down and produce an heir of his own instead of feeding all of his brother's. It just so happens that he's got his eye on Ninian, the only thing is she's not your typical Victorian Lady.

It's rare that I pick up a book in the morning and spend a full 8 hours reading.  But that's what I did.  I literally could not put this one down.

Set at the end of the Regency /beginning of the Victorian eras, this is a romance that rings out with a spark of truth.  Playing back and forth with the idea that men and women learn differently (the men are all of a science background and the women all of a earth based background) and therefore express themselves in different spheres, it leans to a perfect romantic set up.
You could neatly ask "what would happen if a group of female Druids landed in the middle of London?" Which must have been one of the things the author asked herself.

The core of the story is trust. The Ives family have been tricked into wedlock a few times, and no longer trust their wives, where as the Malcolm family have been treated like outcasts for generations.  I thought the brilliant move on the author's part was in making the Ives only able to produce sons, and the Malcolms only able to produce daughters.  Proving balance is always needed.
This is an element (no pun intended) that is repeated throughout the story, with Ninian referring to herself as the earth and Drogo as the air and how when they meet they create storms.  The idea that romantic longings are as basic as electricity was a strong one.

The farther along the story continued, the softer the character of Drogo became. It hinted a bit at Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice as well as reminding me of Jane Eyre. Half set in an eerie gothic castle complete with a ghost and in London proper. Drogo is a man who can not turn anyone away who needs his help, nor can Ninian which makes them both a perfect pair and the most unlikely of rivals.

The opening scene sets up the story's baseline, as we see Ninian lingering on the edge of a May's Eve festival, longing for a simple dance knowing that none of the men in the area are brave enough to see past her family rumours. While a few yards away Drogo is watching Ninian from the shadows, not understanding who or what she is, but admiring her for the simple fact she's a beautiful woman. He ends up saving her from one of the local drunks thinking that she is yet another responsibility. He soon learns Ninian is far stronger then even he is.

The author has pitted two very different family rituals against each other in a simple way that shows tolerance and compromise are always one and the same.

This story is fully delicious in its understanding of Paganism. Which is a rarity all its own.

There were a few minor characters, like Adonis and Sarah (both Ives) that I would have liked to learned more about, as well as a story within the story that Ninian was reading from their family history.

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