Powerful Magic by Karen Whiddon
(LoveSpell, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52432-5
Powerful Magic opens in present-day Dallas, where heiress Megan Potter is about to meet her fiancé under a tree in the park and break off their engagement. Seems that Roger Spencer is no dreamboat; he’s progressed from insulting Megan to slapping her around, breaking her ribs, blackening her eye, dislocating her shoulder. Now he wants Megan to change her will, making him the beneficiary. Megan has finally decided it’s time to leave him.

Megan waits for Roger under said tree, inwardly quaking at his approach. Out of the blue there’s a flash of lightning. Megan is thrown to the ground. When she awakens, she’s lying in the cold, it’s the year 1072, and a huge Welsh warrior named Kenric of Blackstone is trying to warm her by a fire in a cave.

Kenric isn’t just a soldier. He’s half-Faerie, sister to Rhiannon of Rune, queen of the Faeries, and he’s desperate to avoid any and all touches of magic. The only thing he wants is to gain enough money to buy land of his own. When Megan offers Kenric her diamond ring as a down payment for returning her to Roger (and therefore her own time), he is glad to accept. But he’s never heard of Lord Roger Spencer, and this woman, with her strange ramblings of Dallas-Texas and her even stranger hair and clothing, strikes him as being one step away from completely mad.

Even if she is very pretty. As for Megan, one look at hunky Kenric and all she can think about is his muscles and flowing hair. Is she his destined soul-mate, as Rhiannon believes? How will she get back to her own time?

Well, it certainly won’t be by her smarts. As the Roger-the-brute opening suggests, Megan often lives on the verge of cluelessness, which pops up right when she most needs to keep her mouth shut. While this is useful in setting up scenes where Kenric has to rescue her, it does nothing to endear her to the reader. An example: Megan, disguised as a boy, is riding behind Kenric as they search for Roger. They are stopped in the road by a group of brutish-looking fellows. They insult Kenric and act like louts. What does Megan do?

“For shame”, she scolded, even going so far as to shake her finger at them. “What would your mothers think?”

This is after telling them to “ go pick on somebody your own size”, too. You tell ‘em, Megan! That will show these big bullies. Of course, they are ashamed of themselves and ride away, right? Nope, Kenric must defend her, thus forcing the story to its next level. And an awkward forcing it was, too.

The story meanders from Faerie kingdom to enchanted keep and back to the Faerie kingdom, as Kenric struggles against his feelings for Megan and his reluctance to assume the mantle of magic. Kenric is pretty interesting in his own right. His emotional wariness is convincing, even if some of his dialogue sounds straight from the twenty-first century (“No one messed with Kenric’s sword.”) I found it easy to root for him. I just wished he’d found a woman with more sense and spine.

There were other inconsistencies in the story, as well. Megan starts out with “boyishly short” hair, for example, (and I can’t blame the silly cover art on the author), but later in the story, servants dress her hair into an “elaborate coil” on top of her head. And the whole brutal fiancé bit never rang true. We’re told that Megan is looking for a family, that she had to gather her courage to leave Roger, but this is a woman with a multimillion-dollar trust fund. She has the resources to walk away and hire private bodyguards if she’s worried about the guy. So her refusal to leave him until he’s inflicted several severe injuries on her drops her into the realm of an emotional cripple, and that was not the focus of this story.

The last third of the novel really heats up, though, hopefully giving readers a clearer view of the author’s talents. Here the magic element is allowed to flourish, to nice effect. This section was absorbing.

Powerful Magic is Karen Whiddon’s first fantasy romance after penning several Precious Gems contemporaries for Kensington. Hopefully her next release will feature a stronger heroine to balance her nicely-done hero.

--Cathy Sova

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