|Much Ado About Magic is the fifth book in a series set in Georgian England, starring the magical Malcolm family. The Malcolm characters from the previous books are very prevalent, depleting this book of much of its “stand alone” value.
The heroine of Much Ado About Magic is Lady Lucinda Malcolm Pembroke, a painter whose precognition is manifested in her art. Her portraiture has caused scandal in the past, as her seeming innocent pictures have elements of future truths imbedded in them. Her latest painting, a handsome pirate drawn from her imagination, appears to portray the murder of the Earl of Lansdowne’s heir. She is certain that the murderer in the painting doesn’t actually exist, but is surprised to encounter the handsome pirate at the gallery where her painting is displayed. He doesn’t see her, and Lucinda decides to run away before he ever has a chance to.
Sir Trevelyan Rochester is furious that his likeness has been used in a scandalous painting. The work is so detailed that there is no mistaking his face, or his cousin’s yacht sinking in the background. Trev’s grandfather, the Earl of Lansdowne, has used the painting as evidence to have Trev charged with murder. Since it appears that Trev is riding away from his cousin’s sinking yacht, laughing, all of London is happy to agree with the Earl, particularly since the painting is by an artist notorious for the hidden truths in her work.
The adventure begins with Lucinda attempting to escape London and the scandal without encountering Trev. Trev wants nothing more than to leave his seafaring days behind him and settle peacefully on his estate, so he goes to Lucinda’s home to try to get her to admit to falsifying the portrait. When he arrives he inadvertently runs into a disguised Lucinda as she is departing London for a life of anonymity in the country. When he cannot find Lucinda, Trev retires to his cousin’s country estate, which just happens to be where Lucinda is making a new life for herself under another name.
It is at this point that the book began to fall apart. Not having read the previous four books in the set, I was overwhelmed by all the different Malcolm characters that were mentioned, introduced, or re-introduced. And the characters that stood out from the crowd, with the exception of one, were not very likable. The Malcolm family as a whole seems to be a pretty smug group.
The widow of Trev’s cousin, while not a Malcolm, was a particularly annoying character. When Trev arrives at his family home, she starts weeping and fainting. While Trev is using his own funds to keep her household together, the widow, Lady Rochester, remains ungrateful and judgmental. Lady Rochester is a trembling, runny-nosed wimp, but Lucinda makes excuses for her and Trev walks on eggshells around her until the whole scenario became tiresome.
Disappointing also was the “romance” between the hero and heroine. Lucinda and Trevelyan are terribly attracted to one another, of course, but the romance felt contrived and boring. Their decided lack of chemistry makes the love scenes unbelievable.
The final disappointment is the price of this book. Books have been creeping up in price for a long time, but you can quite often purchase a fabulous book by a popular author for six dollars or even less sometimes. Much Ado About Magic in no way justifies the $7.99 price tag.