Enchanted By Magic
by Gloria Harchar
(LoveSpell, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-505-52617-4
Fifty pages into this book, I was still mumbling, “What the heck?” and trying to figure out the basic plot premise. There are two bumbling pixies that reminded me of Moe and Curly from the Three Stooges; a broken lock which is a harp (I thought it was a picture frame for half a chapter), trolls, a Flower that isn’t a flower at all, and some truly silly-sounding names and places. Trolls live in the underworld, named “Sedah” (read it backwards and snort), pixies and/or fairies live in Jubilant, which is high in the clouds above Regency England, and our hero is the Duke (or possibly Earl) of Chillhart. Needless to say, he doesn’t want to love anyone.

Where’s Snidely Whiplash when you need him?

The plot, as best as I can make out, is this: Jubilant is the land of the fairies, and fairies thrive when humans fall in love. Or something. For some problem they caused in the author’s previous book, two bickering pixies named Allegro and Largo have been banished to Earth to fix the lock on Hades – er, Sedah that will keep the nasty Trolls in the underworld where they belong. In order to fix the broken harp/lock, they need the magical powers found in a ruby known as The Flower, and in order to get the ruby working or whatever, its owner, the Duke/Earl of Chillhart, must fall in love with Lauren Miller. He’s actually the Keeper of the Flower and she’s the Chosen Harmonic. Got that? Neither did I.

Grant Hale, Duke of Chillhart (I’ll call him the duke even though the author couldn’t seem to decide what title he held) has been saddled with enormous debts due to his late father’s gambling. Now his grandmother has died, and her fortune will be his if he weds “Lauren Hughes”, whom the old lady believed to be her long-lost granddaughter. Lauren is really Lauren Miller, and she’s the daughter of a thief who once stole the ruby. The loss caused Grant’s father to take his own life, but now it’s back in the Chillhart family. Lauren needs to get her hands on the ruby in order to ransom her sister, Beth, who has been kidnapped. So she presented herself to Grant’s grandmother, and was believed.

Grant returns home, determined to marry the girl and inherit the fortune. So now we have a man willing to marry a woman simply to get his hands on a pile of cash, and a woman who lied her way into an elderly woman’s heart in order to steal a priceless jewel. Gee, what will happen after they marry and he finds out Lauren isn’t who she says she is? With this kind of setup, will anyone care?

I sure didn’t. The fairy thing made so little sense that it was just a waste of reading space, the lead characters are distasteful, and the book is riddled with historical errors. Lauren and Grant don’t turn up the heat on their romance, either. We’re told they are falling in love, and there’s loads of dialogue that doesn’t seem to go anywhere, but the love story is unconvincing. Time and again, they almost make love, then Grant remembers that she lied – lied! or Lauren remembers that he’s a coldhearted boor and she can’t trust him, and off they storm. It’s more a series of perpetual tantrums than a developing relationship. There’s no problem Lauren won’t try to solve by fabricating a story, even when there’s every indication Grant is a decent fellow at heart and she ought to just tell him the truth. Even Lauren’s devotion to her sisters feels false. The youngest sister is cute, but she can’t carry the story.

Enchanted By Magic is marketed as “A Quelgheny Romance” – Quelgheny being an umbrella term for the alternate world of pixies, trolls, and shapeshifters that the author is developing. So it sounds like more magical romances are planned, but one trip to Quelgheny was enough for me, thanks. Only die-hard lovers of fantasy romance are likely to find this enjoyable, and even at that, I’d recommend reading Ms. Harchar’s first novel, Kissed By Magic, to get the backstory this one lacks.

--Cathy Sova

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