The Captive Bride

The Stolen Bride

Touch of Night
by Susan Spencer Paul
(St Martin’s, 6.99, G) ISBN 0-312-93387-8
Fans of sweet, G-rated romance should adore Susan Spencer Paul’s Touch of Night, especially if those fans enjoy paranormal romance as well. The story is sweet, but is interesting enough to entertain a die-hard sex-and-violence fan. The characters have smiling warmth and impeccable manners, which is typical, but have enough temper to avoid giving the reader that cloying, so-sweet-I-need-to-take-a-shower feeling.

First we meet Niclas Seymour, a man once considered the best catch in Regency England, now half crazed and wandering the streets of London at night. He comes from a wealthy and powerful family of magic-users, seers and healers, all of whom hide their powers from normal mortal society. His family cannot help with the problem that caused Niclas to lose his position in society because Niclas has been cursed for causing the death of a mortal by use of magic. The death was inadvertent on Niclas’ part, but he has been judged by the guardians of his people and now can never sleep again until the curse is lifted.

Niclas arranges to accompany Julia Linley to Wales in an attempt to rid himself of the curse. Niclas’ uncle is plaguing Julia’s aunt, a very distant relative of the man who died and caused Niclas to be cursed, and Niclas feels he can persuade his uncle to stop. If Niclas’ plan works, he will have aided a member of the dead man’s family, an action that will hopefully lift the curse. Julia, a twenty-five year old spinster, is traveling to her aunt’s side to ensure that her aunt does not marry Niclas’ uncle under duress.

Before Julia’s family will allow her to travel with Niclas, though, he has to prove that he is not crazed by re-entering society and attending one ball without incident. Part of Niclas’ curse is his inability to control receiving the thoughts and feelings of every mortal around him, so going to a ball would be torturous. His mission is important enough that he makes the attempt, and at the ball he discovers that Julia’s touch acts as a buffer between his mind and the thoughts of others. He also cannot read Julia at all. With Julia’s unknowing assistance Niclas maintains his composure and is able to convince Julia’s family to allow him to escort Julia on her journey.

Their journey is in peril from the outset, however.

I enjoyed the character of Julia. She has loved Niclas from afar for eight years, since she was a spotty, shy and ugly wallflower and he was the darling of society. They’ve never been introduced, or ever even spoken, so the prospect of traveling with Niclas has Julia thrilled/terrified. She’s no longer that shy seventeen-year-old girl, however, and she is able to handle this odd new Niclas, even his strange need to cling to her. As they encounter different weather and magic related problems Julia remains composed. And as she learns more about Niclas and magic and his curse, she falls even more deeply in love. One of the cutest scenes in the book is Julia shouting into the night that she can’t believe the guardians blamed Niclas for something that was not his fault.

The character of Niclas is not your average cookie-cutter paranormal romance hero. He’s not a sexy tortured vampire, or a huge sexy muscled werewolf. He’s handsome, charming and rich, but exhausted and slowly going insane from guilt and lack of sleep caused by the curse. He’s a magician, also a smiling and courteous gentleman, but is manly enough to enjoy the nightly confrontations he has with London’s criminal element.

Touch of Night also has an excellent cast of secondary characters, including Julia’s aunt and Niclas’ uncle, several cousins, and the uncle’s ward. The next book will be about the ward, Loris, also living under a curse, and Niclas’ powerful cousin Kian.

While the physical romance in this book is limited to a little kissing and embraces, Niclas and Julia become very intimate emotionally. The emphasis on devotion, rather than sex, makes Touch of Night a very romantic paranormal romance.

--Wendy Livingston

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