Razzle Dazzle by Lisa Hendrix
(Jove, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-12612-8
****
Razzle Dazzle is part of Jove’s Magical Love series, so I was all set for magic potions and witches when I settled down to read this book. Let me start by saying that I’m one of those readers that needs some semblance of reality in their fiction. I like characters that I could meet in real life and plots that aren’t too far fetched. When I read the back cover, I was worried that this was going to be a long, arduous read for me. What a wonderful surprise to discover delightful characters in an appealing romance.

Mason Alexander’s life is consumed with work and he has no time for romance. But, his family’s business is in desperate need of cash, so he decides a carefully arranged romance and marriage to a rich businessman’s daughter is a good idea. The rich daughter in question, Caroline, knows Mason’s motive for the marriage and she’s all for it. With her wealth and his social connections, she’ll rise to the top of the Seattle elite.

Mason’s mother, Tish, and sister, Miranda, cannot believe Mason would consent to a loveless marriage, even if it will keep them in their comfortable lifestyle. The two decide to help Mason, against his wishes. The two, who like to think of themselves as witches, concoct a love potion for Caroline and Mason. There’s just one problem -- Caroline doesn’t drink the potion, Raine, a beautiful gardener at the estate, does.

Mason is furious when he finds out what his meddling family has done. He does not buy into any New Age ideas, and is tired of watching Tish and Miranda hop on one bandwagon after another. To teach them a lesson, he decides to pretend to actually fall in love Raine. Of course, he needs Raine’s assistance in the charade, and for $5000, she agrees.

The girlfriend-for-hire scheme is one of those old romance formulas, but Hendrix takes it and puts a new twist on it. She even has Raine poke fun at how similar the whole scenario is to the movie “Pretty Woman.” Hendrix also uses pop culture references -- for instance, James Bond -- to add humor to the story. Because of this, I never felt like Raine was being taken advantage of, or was a “kept” woman -- which is hard to do in plots of this nature.

To my relief, the New Age element is not overdone. Hendrix explained enough about New Age philosophies so I wasn’t lost, but I didn’t feel like I was reading a textbook on the subject either.

I really enjoyed Mason, Raine, and Miranda the meddling sister. It was great fun to see if they could stay one step ahead of each other. Also, there is Paul, Mason’s driver, who is rather delightful and has some great moments with Miranda. Tish, instead of having her son’s best interests at heart, came off as only caring about her own lifestyle and was rather snobbish towards Raine.

Mason is carrying around some emotional baggage, and while Hendrix explores it, I did feel that a more in depth treatment would have added a lot of dimension and complexity to his relationship with Raine.

When all is said though, Razzle Dazzle nicely meshes romance and fantasy to create a wonderful read. For anyone looking to escape the ordinary, Hendrix offers a remarkable tale.

--Wendy Crutcher


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