A Faerie Tale by Ginny Reyes
(Jove, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-12338-2
***
There's absolutely nothing wrong with A Faerie Tale that a good trimming wouldn't cure. Say about a hundred pages. Then all the silliness and irritating plot maneuvers that torpedoed the last third of the book would be gone, and the delightful first two-thirds would be left in peace to shine as they should. I get the feeling that this book was originally much shorter and was stretched to fit a longer requirement. Maybe. It read like it, anyway.

Stuffy banker Patrick O'Toole tosses a coin into a well on May Day and wishes to find his true love. This bit of whimsy is the result of encouragement by his girlfriend, the witchy Serena Keller. Patrick thinks he wants to marry Serena, daughter of the town's mayor. The problem is, he can't get his mind off of Annie Brennan.

Annie is an 18-year-old orphan with a large inheritance, one that Patrick happens to oversee as part of his duties at the bank. Annie, a frustrated artist, wants to use her funds to open an Artists Haven, a place where people can come and create without having to worry about such tedious things as rent and food. She'll pay for everything, They can Follow Their Muses. This being 1890s Pennsylvania, it's a fairly ludicrous idea to Patrick. And since he controls the purse-strings, the conflict is immediate.

It's hard not to see Annie as an idealistic twit, but Reyes does a credible job of convincing readers that Annie has some depth and substance. When Rosaleen, a faerie, and Eamon, a leprechaun, arrive to make sure Patrick's wish is fulfilled, a sort of mystical pandemonium ensues.

Patrick and Annie are crowned King and Queen of the May Day festival, throwing them together and igniting their interest in each other. Rosaleen and Eamon, being clumsy, goof up a few spells with amusing results. In the meantime, they are falling in love with each other, in their human form.

When a dastardly plot comes to light involving the sneaky Serena and her oily father, the book really starts to zip along. Patrick and Annie all but ignite the pages. And thenů

..the whole thing hits a brick wall. Page 187, to be exact.

I can't tell you exactly what happens because it would give away too much of the plot. Let's just say that making a character instantly assume the worst of someone they profess to love, for no reason except merest circumstance, is no way to keep a story going. And turning the other lead into a complete idiot doesn't garner any respect, either. At this point I lost all patience with the leads, and only my interest in the secondary characters of Eamon and Rosaleen kept me reading.

The denouement felt tacked on, and on, and on. It seemed to take forever to wrap up this story. What happened to the charming "faerie tale" atmosphere of the book? Having spent the first two-thirds in satisfied enjoyment, it was painful to see it all fall apart.

Maybe these things won't bother you. Maybe the initial high-spiritedness of A Faerie Tale will sustain you through to the end. I followed the rainbow, but there was no pot of gold at the end of this book.

--Cathy Sova


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