A Breath of Magic
by Tracy Madison
(Leisure, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0505528360
When I started A Breath of Magic, I admit I had my share of doubts and some rather snarky thoughts about the main character, Chloe. At the beginning of the novel, we find Chloe and her magic-inclined cousin Elizabeth discussing the possibility of Elizabeth making Chloe a magic cake that will convince Chloe’s commitment-phobic boyfriend to marry her. This alone made for excellent fodder, and I found myself preparing to have to hunker down and slog through a book about the dangers of magic powers and romance.

Luckily for me, Chloe turned out to be funny, sarcastic, and likable. I was able to go from thinking, “How many more pages?” to “Can I sneak in a few more pages on my coffee break?”

All Chloe ever wanted was a home and to feel that she belonged somewhere. The problem is, she is impatient and turns to magic to try to coerce her boyfriend Kyle to marry her. Her scheme works and they get engaged. But Alice, Chloe’s best friend, also has magical powers and the ability to draw out the future. She draws Chloe with her soul mate, and it’s not Kyle. Chloe decides she’ll settle for Kyle, only to meet her soul mate Ben when he comes into her New Age store. Ben, of course, is tall, dark, handsome, built like a Greek god, rich, sexy, and with a tumultuous past that both intrigues and concerns Chloe. Now Chloe wants Ben, only she’s engaged to Kyle who is under a spell that makes him love Chloe more than he actually does when he isn’t love-drunk on magic cake. Complicated? It’s only getting started.

Unlike the majority of her family, Chloe does not possess magical powers. Right smack dab in the middle of this tricky love triangle, Chloe’s magical powers start to manifest and she receives her first rite of passage: a visit from the ghost of her dead great-great-great grandmother, Miranda.

Miranda acts as the mentor figure in the book, appearing when Chloe is in need of guidance and successfully muddying the waters for Chloe. To make matters worse, a mysterious stranger shows up at the shop and asks for Chloe’s help. Chloe feels compelled to help her and decides to do what she can, but the girl keeps disappearing. Now Chloe has to uncharm her fiancé, break things off, pursue her soul mate and not screw anything up or, thanks to another drawing from Alice, she’ll end up alone.

      A Breath of Magic starts off slow, but picks up about a third of the way in and then the pacing is solid and interesting until the very last page. I enjoyed getting to know Chloe and seeing her try to set her life in order.

Ben is a likable character, even if he is a little stereotypical. However, his riches and power, combined with his stellar ability to alienate himself from others and from the affection of others is somewhat reminiscent of Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. Chloe does manage to bring out the best in him, but the process is painful for both of them.

Chloe and Ben as a couple I found to be disappointing. There seemed to be no real chemistry between them. Well, Chloe keeps saying there is, but as a reader I didn’t feel it. When it comes to their budding romance, there is a lot of telling the reader how great it is, but not a lot of showing the reader the romantic pull between them. I was hopeful, but I just couldn’t get behind them. They didn’t give off that ‘soul mate’ vibe.

The dialogue is pleasantly fast paced and snappy. I laughed where I should be laughing, which is always a plus. However, I found myself laughing a few times when I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to find the scene to be funny, such as a scene about half way through the novel when Chloe goes to mush over Ben’s rippling muscles and he woos her by telling her he works out daily. The whole scene comes off as silly and over the top.

While the world created by Tracy Madison is well crafted and colorful, there were times when I found myself being pulled out of the story by the little things the characters do or don’t do. For example, in one scene, Ben rips open a condom wrapper with his teeth. Anyone who has taken sex ed. would know that’s a big no-no. Ben strikes me as intelligent, so this boneheaded action brought my immersion in the story to a grinding halt.

Overall, A Breath of Magic is a pleasant read. I enjoyed the story line, the characters and the touches of magic here and there. I was happy to find that the magic did not overwhelm the story and that the plot didn’t become so convoluted that the story was unreadable. It has its ticks and quirks, but I’m glad I read it.  

--Lindsey Seddon

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