by Ann Tracy Marr, paranormal regency (2007)
Awe-Struck, $4.99, ISBN 978-1-587496-06-6
Ann Tracy Marr has created a pretty interesting alternate Regency-era world in Round Table Magician, where magic exists and King Arthur lived long enough to leave his legacy in the world. Or in England, at least, where our hero, Lord Brinston, is working for the Council of the Round Table. He's the heir of a dukedom and he is also a secret agent who happens to know magic.
All the magic in the world however cannot prevent him from "compromising" his friend's seventeen-year old sister Martha Dunsmore when he saves her from a bunch of ruffians trying to take her hostage in a showdown with the authorities. Apparently since she is unchaperoned, it doesn't matter that he may be saving her life, he has compromised her so he agrees with her brother that it may soon be time to post the banns. However, because Lord Brinston believes that it is only right that he knows his future wife more - oh, an introductory "How are you, m'dear?" period of six months will be ideal in his estimation - he will get to know her better before he formally weds her. Needless to say, Martha has no idea of her upcoming nuptials. Their unconventional courtship involves a dead spy or two, some house parties for Martha and her girlfriends to get into all kinds of trouble, and more.
Round Table Magician is a paranormal traditional regency. As I've mentioned, I find the concept behind the story most interesting and I really wish the author has done something less generic with her characters and storyline. The paranormal elements in this story can be easily dispensed with (after a few modifications here and there, of course) without effecting the storyline much.
The hero is a standard Regency historical hero and despite the supposed much-feared reputation of the magicians in this story, he never comes off as a memorable character to me. He's a pleasant amalgamation of every nice beta heroine trait out there when he should have been a little more dangerous and menacing as befitting his reputation. Martha is a rather problematic character because the author doesn't seem to know whether Martha is supposed to child-like or impulsive so Martha veers from one behavior to another. She keeps calling Lord Brinston an "angel" and the bad guys "dragons" right from the first page that she comes off like a five-year old girl. When she's not seventeen going on five, she's running wild in hoydenish misadventures (running out in the dark and other jolly fun stuff without any clear plan or even idea as to what she is doing). Like Lord Brinston, Martha is an amalgamation of Regency heroine traits. When she's not saying the most childishly silly things, she's having tears in her eyes. Martha is also always wrong and can always be relied on to come to making the worst decision or conclusion possible in every situation. It doesn't help that everyone from Lord Brinston to her brother treats her like she is some delicate child to protected. Every mistake of hers is passed off as some "Oh dear, how cute!" mishap of a cute little girl. Ugh. Unlike Lord Brinston who gets all the nicer traits, Martha is a mix of the more annoying heroine traits out there: she's always wrong, childlike, and impulsive.
The setting has plenty of potential for good stories and Ms Marr has plenty of interesting "what might have been" scenarios in her alternate world that would give rise to intriguing storylines. But Round Table Magician doesn't quite hit the bullseye. The plot is too dependent on the heroine being wrong or silly to keep the story going and the overall storyline development isn't as magical as I would expect it to be. Hopefully any future books will make use of the setting much better. As for this book, I have to say that I find Round Table Magician is too much like a very average traditional regency with a very annoying heroine as well as some paranormal elements that for now serve merely as window dressing. There are many good ideas are found here, but the execution of these ideas could have been so much better.
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