Charmed and Dangerous
by Candace Havens
(Berkley, $14.00, PG-13) ISBN 0-435-20691-2
****
Charmed and Dangerous, entertainment writer Candace Havensí first contemporary romance, is fast-paced, funny, and highly entertaining. This venture into the diary of a modern-day witch has a lot of appeal.

Bronwyn comes from a long line of witches. She can read minds, her specialty is combustion, and sheís often called upon to help guard the Prime Minister of England, though she makes her home in the little town of Sweet, Texas. Sweet has quite a population of witches, in fact. Bronwyn tells her story in diary format, and the first entry opens with a dead man in her bed, one she obviously loves dearly. From there, the story backtracks.

We find out that the man is Sam, a local doctor who might be a warlock. Bronwyn is called to a meeting in Norway where the British PM is meeting with several world leaders, including Sheik Azir, an attractive man with a host of enemies. Bronwyn dispatches a few of them and is injured in the process. When the sheik offers up his thanks in the form of a Gulfstream jet, Bronwyn canít help but be intrigued, especially since Sam seems in no hurry to move ahead with their relationship.

The sheik isnít the only one in danger. Someone is out to get Bronwyn as well, and that kind of magic can only belong to a powerful warlock. As Bronwyn sorts out the situation, she ends up in the Middle East guarding the sheik, while wondering what Sam is up to back home with her gorgeous friend Simone in attendance.

This is a rather tepid introduction to a book that has more funny observations than anything Iíve read this year. Bronwyn is snappy, sharp, and blunt, and the overall effect is hilarious. She might be a witch, but sheís facing the same men issues that any single woman faces, and she does it with a huge amount of sass and a good deal of introspection. Bronwyn is something many chick-lit heroines arenít: aware of who and what she is and without a whine in her body. I thought she was great.

The plot is certainly inventive, and the author does something very clever in not actually spending much time introducing the witchís world, but rather simply dropping the reader inside and treating it as everyday life. Bronwyn casually dispatches bad guys with spells that make them burst into flame, explode, or worse, and we simply accept it because she does. It works remarkable well. There are a few fumbles early on, as Bronwyn refers to previous attempts on her life that make little sense to the reader, but those are easily forgotten.

The ďtorn between two menĒ subplot is a chick-lit staple, and though readers might guess who the body in Bronwynís bed is, itís not confirmed until near the end and could have gone either way. She gets her happy ending, though, and itís a fun resolution. I will say that the villain is a character that appears out of nowhere and appears to have been summoned only to wrap up the story.

But overall, Charmed and Dangerous is a fine fiction debut for Candace Havens. She has a perfect voice for contemporary romance and I hope we see a lot more of her.

--Cathy Sova


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