by Debra Dier, historical (2001)
Leisure, $5.50, ISBN 0-8439-4866-3
Despite its flaws, I can't deny that Debra Dier's MacKenzie's Magic is interesting. It's about this Jane Eveleigh, a supposedly plain, mousy woman (only in her own eyes) who is coerced into marrying the rake Dominic Stanbridge. Jane has no illusions about Dominic - the man practically forced Jane to marry him using her sister's IOU note, and all because Jane is the only woman to tell him no. He figures that she is playing hard to get, because everyone knows this woman-abusing a-hole is friggin' irresistible.
On her wedding night, Jane wishes upon a star that her new husband will just disappear and her true love, wherever and whoever he is, will find her instead. And Dom, before falling asleep, vows that he will win her even if he has to be someone she imagines him to be.
So the next morning, Dom wakes up and egads, he doesn't remember his life as Dominic at all. Instead, he claims to be one Colin MacKenzie, a 16th century Scottish earl who has somehow transported 300 years into the future into Dom's body. What is going on here? Jane is sure that Dom in faking all this. Is he? Is Dom just pretending, like he planned that night, or did Jane's wish really does come true that night? Or maybe, when Jane pushed Dom out of the path of a falling flower pot earlier that day, that bump on Dom's head somehow alters the man's personality?
Anyone wanting a quick, clean resolution to this mystery by the last page will be gnashing their teeth, because the author prefers to "let you be the final judge", as she puts it in the afterword. I have my own theories, but discussing it here will give away the entire story. But I must say my enjoyment of MacKenzie's Magic is more cerebral than it being a good romance novel. Jane is a smart lady, but she is just no match for Colin/Dominic, falling too easily. But she does try to stand up to him, I'd give her that. Colin/Dominic isn't very interesting as a hero, Colin more often than not coming off like some not very eloquent gung-ho he-man with his "You witch! You witch! I bed you!" conversations.
But the author at the same time weaves in enough red herrings and maybe not-so-red ones to keep me fascinated. What is going on here? Dang if I don't keep turning the pages because I want to know that too. At the end, though, no matter what the answer is, I decide to evaluate the romance instead. Do I trust Dom/Colin? Hmm... well, towards the end his affections and proclamations of love do sound sincere enough, and besides, if he's being kind and lovey-dovey this way, even if he's faking it, he's a far cry from some stupid arrogant heroes I know. Jane can do worse as much as she can do better. So, okay, the romance is pretty satisfactory.
And since MacKenzie's Magic also engages my interest and keeps me reading and rereading it, I can't say it's a bad story either. It's not exactly a home run bona fide success as a romance, as some issues of trust are left dangling too much, but as a good story, well, it's definitely one if it keeps me so involved in it.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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