Tuesday, June 5

Maggie Shayne: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

This is a collection of three supernatural romance novellas. I say supernatural rather than paranormal because the main characters are all humans whose lives are touched by magic rather than magical beings themselves.
The first, Everything She Does is Magic, tells the story of a powerful witch/healer who, unbeknownst to her, is fated to be the mother of an even more powerful witch but only if child is sired by a particular man. Her three aunts make it their mission to see that this child is born. There are two catches. Firstly, the heroine doesn’t particularly like the man in question. Secondly, he must remain a virgin until he sires her child. It takes them some very creative magic to keep him pure but they manage it and eventually the child is conceived.
This is a light-hearted piece with some very funny moments. The developing romance is believable and the obligatory happy ending fits the story well.
The second, Musketeer by Moonlight, tells the story of a private detective on the run from a mob boss who wants her dead. She hides out at her crazy aunt’s house where she finds a spell book. Desperate, with nothing to lose and little else to do on Halloween night, she decides to try a spell for protection. She gets things wrong and conjures up a libidinous musketeer. He helps her evade the bad guys and turn evidence enough to convict them for life over to the police. He then stays on as her lover and partner at the detective agency.
The interaction between the hero and heroine in this piece was its big redeeming feature. The development of their relationship is lovely. And what woman wouldn’t want a bit of old fashioned chivalry when it comes bundled up in a body to die for. The plot itself was not so convincing. It required just a bit more suspension of disbelief than I had to give it. The musketeer picks up on the language, customs and technology of our time far too easily to be believable. And it was difficult to believe the heroine learns enough about swordplay in one night to disarm a gun-toting thug. A nice romance but a poor story.
The third, The Con and the Crusader, tells the story of a con man that, escaping from both police custody and the mob, accidentally jumps into a wishing well and is transported back to 1890. Here an archaic law forces him to marry a local widow and work on her farm. When he immediately cons the locals into doing his work for him she is disgusted by, and ashamed of, him. Wanting to redeem himself in her eyes, for none too honourable reason, he goes straight. Through hard work and a good woman’s love he finds true redemption and decides to stay with her rather than return to his own time.
The basic story line is a trifle cliched but the author carries it off so well that I really didn’t mind the fact that there were no surprises. The con he uses on the locals is very obvious and the story almost lost me there but the author had the locals know they were being conned and not mind (it was a way they could help the proud widow that she had to accept).
Overall a nice collection but not outstanding. If I came across a full length novel by Maggie Shayne with an original sounding premise I would have a look at it. I liked her playful voice and ability to carry off some tired old themes well but as this collection shows, her stories can be a bit hit or miss.-Lynn

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