The Candlelight Wish

Notorious & Noble

Starlight Wish

Summer Kittens

 
The Moonlight Wish
by Janice Bennett
(Zebra. $4.99, G) ISBN 0-821-76627-9
***
Looking for a Regency with a fairy godmother twist? Look no further. And while The Moonlight Wish won't appeal to everyone, it's unique storyline is at least something out of the tried-and-true.

The fairy Xanthe and her cat, Titus, are on a mission to help Lady Edwina Langston, granddaughter of the irascible Marquis of Shoreham. The marquis is near death and is insisting that Edwina marry her second cousin, Charles, Viscount Ashtead. Neither Edwina or Charles have any interest in the marriage, but the marquis is threatening disinheritance. In a fit of pique, Edwina runs away and is instantly befriended by the fairy Xanthe, who takes her to Brighton for the summer.

In a burst of illogic that left me scratching my head, it seems that everyone in Brighton already knows Xanthe, though her magic only works on Edwina. Ashtead, for that matter, seems to look upon her as a sort of aunt. When he follows Edwina to Brighton, he's surprised to find that she has plans. Eddie (as she is sometimes called in the story) intends to win ten thousand pounds playing cards over the summer and then purchase a cottage where she can live independently.

Ashtead's widowed sister, Lydia, his aunt Hester, and his absentminded playwright friend William Jacoby all enter the picture, as does Eddie's uncle Marmaduke, a less-than-successful gamester himself. Eddie goes to parties and starts winning money at cards. Lydia and Jacoby begin to notice each other. Ashtead finds he's interested in his Cousin Edwina after all.

And that's about the sum total of the plot. Oh, the marquis fumes and schemes, and Eddie and Ashtead wander around alternately berating one another and then noticing how attractive the other is. Xanthe and Titus carry on conversations, and her machinations are occasionally amusing enough to bring out a grin. But on the whole, the story stalled after the first several chapters and didn't get going again until the end. Edwina going to a party and winning at cards while Ashtead keeps his eye on her was a scene played out over and over again. After a while, it felt like filler.

There was one scene that was a standout, though, and it had nothing to do with Edwina's cardsharp aspirations. Brighton during the Regency was no doubt a fascinating place, and the author includes a scene where Edwina hires a bathing machine and goes out into the ocean to paddle in water that is waist-deep. The driver, the horse, the attendant were vivid and gave this reader a sampling of how a non-swimming gentlewoman might have taken her first dip in the ocean. I enjoyed this passage so much I read it twice.

If you enjoy Regencies with a little twist of fantasy, you might quite like The Moonlight Wish. While it wasn't a total success for this reader, there is something to admire in a Regency that steps outside the traditional boundaries.

--Cathy Sova


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