by Jayel Wylie, historical/paranormal (2002)
Sonnet, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-1840-9
Reading Jayel Wylie's This Dangerous Magic is like shagging a man who looks like Hugh Jackman with ten times the sex factor, only to learn too late what a dull bore this Hugh clone is. On the surface (the first few chapters), this book is very promising, making me anticipate a meaty, medieval 1170s paranormal with a hero that can give the Anne Stuart guys a run for their money.
Then the hero and the heroine start repeating their actions and drama again and again and again, I wonder when the moment of glory is coming. If I fake it, will this ordeal end at once and spare me the rest of the monotonous banging away?
Closely related to this author's romance debut A Falcon's Heart, This Dangerous Magic nonetheless stands alone pretty well if you care to wait a little for the background story to unfurl. Malinda Brinlaw is the daughter of our couple in A Falcon's Heart, and her man is her half-cousin Tarquin. In this book, Tarquin's blood lust is slowly taking over the last of his humanity, and he takes his berserk nature far, far away from Brinlaw and his half-sister Nan. But his promise to Nan that he will give her away on her wedding day brings him back to this place, and here he encounters Malinda. He and she has a deep connection in the early chapters when they stumble into each other's dreams - or something like that - and now they feel such strong attraction to each other.
Now, I am such high hopes for Tarquin. The sociopath in me gives a cheer when he commits a violent action (self-defense, naturally), and I wonder if this book will fulfill the cool violent-tinged medieval subgenre void usually occupied by the likes of Marsha Canham and Gayle Feyrer. Yeah, yeah, call me a sociopath, whatever really.
Then he meets Malinda, a witch who can make herself invisible, and both of them turn into modern-day teenaged brats. I don't know, but Tarquin, instantaneously going into "I'm not worthy" mode, immediately steals Malinda's hawk from her and I think this is really, really petty of him. Malinda isn't any better. She keeps stamping her feet and wanting her way or nothing at all, and when common sense fails her (a very frequent occurrence), she turns invisible and run headlong into deep smelly crap.
He keeps pushing her away (after pawing her, naturally) all the time and she keeps coming back for more - this is basically relationship development as far as this story goes. The author uses a very contrived plot device to have Tarquin sticking close to Malinda, as if the "I'm not worthy, and I will push her away, after I've stolen her hawk, taunted her about it, kissed her, pawed her, oops, screwed her, but never fear, I'll keep pushing her away, oops, screwed her again, and oops, did I do that? Don't worry folks, I'll keep pushing - oops, I pulled too - oops! Oops! Yeeks!" thing isn't contrived enough.
And finally, like all good medievals, Tarquin's epiphany comes at the cost of his mother's reputation and character. It really doesn't pay to be a woman in medieval romances sometimes.
The history in this book is less wallpapery than usual - Ms Wylie inserts history more successfully than many medieval authors out there, and the atmosphere has a decent "authentic" feel to it. But the main characters act like contemporary characters, to a point that a even oblivious history dunce like me can notice. I don't mind that, usually, but in this case, these characters are acting like contemporary obnoxiously whiny teenaged brats that grate on my nerves. I don't even care about Tarquin's redemption after a while, because the ratio of bratty noise to signal antics becomes too high to ignore.
A little maturity to dealing with the relationship dynamics of this story - or even a little variation to the "I'm not worthy" blues, at least - will have gone a long way to making This Dangerous Magic more enjoyable.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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