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Spellbound by Trana Mae Simmons
(Jove, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-515-12390-0
***
Spellbound is a likeable tale of romance and witchcraft with many appealing characters, but a few problems. First, a number of minor, but important, plot points were overlooked or explained too late. Also, at times, the language was inconsistent; modern phrases turning up where they don't belong.

Ten years ago, a very drunk Nick Bardou went looking for his father's mistress the woman he hates for causing his mother to commit suicide. The next thing Nick remembers is waking up covered in blood next to a very dead Sabine Chastain.

Guilt stricken, Nick leaves New Orleans with no intention of ever returning until he reads the paper and finds there is a tax sale on his family home. Nick plans to returns to New Orleans for just a few days, enough time to sort out his affairs.

That is, until he runs into Sabine's daughter, Wendi Chastain. Wendi was twelve years old when her mother was murdered, she has lived with her Aunt Sybilla since then and they have made their way in the world by using witchcraft.

Recently, Wendi and Sybilla's magical powers have been getting weaker and weaker. Both she and Sybilla feel that until they determine who killed Sabine and fix the karma, their powers will continue to weaken. Although she isn't certain, Wendi doesn't believe that Nick is responsible for her mother's murder.

Wendi is certain that she and Nick are linked by their karma and she knows she's going to need his help in order to find out the truth about her mother. Wendi wants to search Nick's family home as well as his plantation. She's sure the answer to all her questions will be found in her mother's journal, and that the journal must be somewhere on Bardou land.

But Nick doesn't want anything to do with Wendi or her witchcraft. It's hard enough to fight the attraction he has for her without having her living under his roof. Then again, Nick would gladly give away his entire fortune to know that he wasn't responsible for the murder of Sabine Chastain.

In Spellbound, Ms. Simmons weaves facts and fantasy about witches and witchcraft into an interesting story. But a number of plot points are overlooked or explained too late, or never explained at all. For instance, early in the story Wendi talks about her first husband and mentions that their divorce was inevitable after "Cassandra" came into their lives.

I thought I was supposed to know who Cassandra was; that she must have been mentioned previously. I flipped back through the first few chapters trying to find a mention of her name and couldn't very frustrating. Wendi's first husband, his true love, Cassandra, and their role in Wendi's life should have been explained the first time the subject of her ex-husband came up.

Also, it seems incongruous that Nick's so devastated by his mother's suicide, yet Wendi never shows much indication that her mother's murder, when she was only a child of twelve, wasn't equally devastating. It's also hard to believe that Wendi would be willing to wait ten years to find her mother's murderer.

While I enjoyed much of the dialog in Spellbound, there were times that it seemed wrong for the historical time period. When Wendi uses phrases like "mind-blowing" it jerks me right out of the setting, post-Civil War New Orleans, and into the present.

Despite the minor flaws, there's a lot to like about Spellbound. It has some very likable witches, it's filled with interesting facts concerning the practice of witchcraft and it retains a good sense of humor throughout most of the book.

--Judith Flavell


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