Under Your Spell
by Marcia King-Gamble
(Arabesque/BET, $4.99, PG) ISBN 1-58314-027-1
Marcia King-Gamble's first novel, Remembrance, was an engaging story about college sweethearts brought together after 18 years at their class reunion aboard a Caribbean cruise ship.

The author has parlayed her experience as a travel industry executive to create picturesque locales for her novels. I always get a case of wanderlust after reading a Marcia King-Gamble romance.

Under Your Spell, her third novel, is set on the fictional British Caribbean islands of San Simone and St. Miguel. Marley Graves has returned home to St. Miguel in the hopes of working for Dane Carmichael. Carmichael is writing a book on island folklore and Marley, who has a masters degree, wants to assist him. She is drawn by his ad:

"Anthropologist and author in search of assistant, able and willing to decipher notes. Must be versed in Word or WordPerfect. Helps if you're bright, knowledgeable and able to take orders. A word of warning. The superstitious need not apply."

The reclusive Dane Carmichael is himself the subject of local lore. His wife drowned mysteriously in a boating accident. There are those who say the author murdered her. Her body has never been found. Since his wife's death, he has embraced Rastafarianism. Undaunted, Marley applies for the job.

Her work with Dane brings her into his home, where his wife's somewhat creepy grandmother works as his housekeeper. It brings her to the center of a clash of cultures. It also brings her face-to-face with El Dora, the local Obeah woman. Most of the islanders shun traditional medicine and go to El Dora for herbal remedies. When several people who have been treated by El Dora and the local doctor die, Dane works to expose El Dora as a charlatan.

In Under Your Spell, Marcia King-Gamble has once again brought together two lovers in an idyllic setting. While Dane and Marley's relationship begins shaky, it develops into a credible pairing. The machinations of a former and would-be lover add to the mix.

However, the small island intrigues seemed to lack something I can't pinpoint. Somehow, the education, training and experience of the main characters didn't quite add up when they encountered the cultural vagaries of the island. The use of Obeah as a backdrop promised something more absorbing and mystical than I got from the story. Likewise, the story didn't get into the Rastafarian culture as deeply as I had hoped.

I was convinced of the romance, but not by the suspense. As a result, Under Your Spell is a strong 3-hearter.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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