All A Woman Wants

Almost Perfect

Blue Clouds

Garden of Dreams

Impossible Dreams

McCloud's Woman

Merely Married

Must Be Magic

Nobody's Angel


The Trouble with Magic
by Patricia Rice
(Signet, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-451-20947-8
Lady Felicity Childe, daughter of the Marquess of Hampton, wants to rid herself of her supernatural gift. When she touches people or things she can see events and feel emotions. Because she has learned to protect herself from these visions, she has kept herself away from social situations where she might have to touch people, and her come-out was unsuccessful. Her father has favored the suit of Sir Percy Larch, but when she touched Percy’s hand, she saw his mother’s falling to her death. Percy had denied being with his mother when she died so she believes he must have murdered her. As long as she has such unwelcome and draining visions, she cannot hope to have a normal life with a husband and children.

Felicity believes that an old Malcolm book (Malcolm is a family name) may have the secret that will undo this ability of hers, but the book was sold to a Scottish lord a century earlier. She and her sister Christina are on a boat taking them to visit a married sister. It’s their plan to travel to Scotland to see if they can locate the book. When a storm sweeps them to another destination close to Scotland, they take advantage of the situation to elude the ship’s captain. They get a room at an inn and make plans to head north.

Ewen Ives is an inventor. He is one of a group of investors who backed a canal lock designed by Ewen that failed and flooded a valley. Ewen’s debts are mounting, and he must marry to secure his financial situation. He has chosen a wealthy Scottish widow as his prospective bride, but he is not eager to assume the married state. He has lived an irresponsible, rakish life and is not ready to give it up.

Ewen is drinking at an inn with Aidan Dougal, who’s some sort of cousin, when he overhears a heated negotiation between a cart owner and two women. He recognizes the women as his older brother’s sisters-in-law, Felicity and Christina. He doesn’t want to become involved but cannot let the women head off to Scotland unescorted. It is arranged that he’ll drive them to Aidan’s castle near Edinburgh.

On the road, Ewen finds himself inexplicably drawn to the timid young woman whom he is used to thinking of as merely a child. When he moves near her protectively, Felicity discovers that she does not experience the horrifying sensations she has with other men. Is it possible that she can learn to live with her abilities? Even so, Ewen’s indebtedness will stand between him and a marriage contracted for love rather than money.

This historical romance set in the 1740's has a nice enough hero and heroine, but that’s insufficient to overcome the twin burdens of a slow-moving plot and a story that’s too dependent on others in the series. There are multiple references to past and ongoing conflict between the Malcolms and the Ives with insufficient background. Felicity seems to be a Malcolm, but her last name is Childe. Since I haven’t read either of the two previous books, I’m not exactly sure who the Malcolms are but my guess is they’re some kind of family with a lot of supernaturally talented female members. Other relatives and characters from the earlier books pop up and drop in throughout the narrative. Moreover, Aidan Dougal is something of a mystery even though he is some kind of Ives relative so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him featured in a forthcoming book.

There are two main conflicts in The Trouble with Magic: Ewen’s broke and facing financial ruin, and Felicity’s got this unwanted supernatural ability. This is revealed from the start, but it’s repeated and repeated so that the book’s pace lags from the frequent lack of real action. It seems odd that Felicity’s family has failed to give her much assistance in coping with her ability in a larger world, and Ewen’s suggestions on how she might learn to control it come as a completely new idea to her.

The story contains several subplots including one where Felicity’s gift offers a new theory concerning Ewen’s financial difficulties, but rather than being expanded to add some depth to the plot, it never exceeds its relatively minor role. There’s also a subplot about a book of erotica that gives Felicity the opportunity to demonstrate how completely naive and silly she can be and gives Ewen the opportunity to remember how much he’d like to have a romp with Felicity if she weren’t so innocent. Since the book doesn’t play any real role in the plot except to have the two of them thinking about pretty much the same thing, it doesn’t contribute much to the storyline. It’s unfortunate that two such promising characters as Felicity and Ewen aren’t allowed more opportunities to do something.

Patricia Rice is an accomplished author, but The Trouble with Magic is not among her best. Readers who have read the earlier books in the Magic series may want to check it out, but those new to the series are probably best advised to start with another title.

--Lesley Dunlap

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