My Enchanted Enemy
by Tracy Fobes, historical (2002)
Sonnet, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-1279-6


It all began a long, long time back when Anthony St Germaine stole the magical luck-bringing talisman Sea Opal from the Strangford gypsy clan. To cover up his crime, he formed a lynch mob to destroy the gypsies. When cornered, however, the gypsy matriarch - also a powerful sorceress - cast a curse on all St Germaines, causing them jump off the high cliffs to spend all time living the sea.

Fast forward to 1810. Today, the Strangfords are down to a small number of surviving descendants, all whose sole preoccupation is to recover the missing Sea Opal. Thanks to the loss of the Sea Opal, they have so many bad lucks that now, they are reduced to living in lousy gentrified quarters. How sad. I guess "honest day work/trade" never figures into their plans.

In the meantime, the St Germaines are suffering too. Yes, they are alive, because while they are now living in shipwrecks at the bottom of the sea, they certainly haven't lost their procreating abilities. Cool. Today, Juliana St Germaine and her brother George come on shore, take on human form, and set about to break the curse. After all, to break gypsy curses, all you need is to sleep with the enemy and bear his child. The male sperm is the panacea for every ill in this world, isn't that right, Ms Fobes? Maybe we can open a sperm bank in the Middle-East and they will stop suicide bombing each other.

So George pretends to be Cole Strangford to distract Cole's intended bride, not knowing that he will soon fall hard for the allure of innocence. Juliana pretends to be the intended bride's sister pretending to be... well, she pretends to be somebody, and she and Cole soon fall hard for each other too. But what now? Can Juliana's sabotaging Cole's diving gears (he is an engineer/inventor who wants to recover the Sea Opal, remember) destroy their love? Can a Big Secret romance be palatable?

Actually, Cole is a stereotypical inventor/nerd with a stick up his butt stock character, but he thaws beautifully. Juliana isn't innocent, she just plays the innocent, but while she displays some stock heroine traits, she too develops nicely as a woman who falls in love despite trying her best not to. George and girlie don't get that much time or space here, but what I see of them are nice too. The characters may be the stock type, but they come to life rather nicely. I find myself nodding to Juliana's emotional epiphany, I wish I see more of George, and Cole makes a nice Colonel Von Trapp kind of gruff/sensitive hero.

The plot is a mix of standard elements but I still find enough to keep turning the pages enthusiastically. Probably because the two main characters seem so right together, they are worth cheering on no matter what.

But this is a Big Secret book, right? And the whole final test - the baptism of fire, if you will - is how the main characters deal with each other when George and Juliana are exposed for the world to see. Now this is where this book fumbles. The author doesn't do herself any justice by laying out the conflict that follows the Big Revelation only in the last few chapters, but worse is her relying on external conflicts to force our lovebirds to forgive and forget. It's not convincing, to say the least, and it ruins the whole somewhat "mature" tone of the relationships in this book. After all, if we are to talk about trust and understanding, the author bloody well shows it in the story when trust and understanding are the things that matter the most. Not this "Oh you're in trouble/you rescued me - I LOVE YOU! The end" cop-out.

Still, no matter. For the most while, My Enchanted Enemy tries to be original while pleasing the comfort readers, and it mostly succeeds. I had a pleasant time with this one, so yeah, here you go. One and a half thumbs up.

Rating: 87


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