Simply Magic
by Kathleen Kane, historical/paranormal (1999)
St Martin's Press, $5.99, ISBN 0-312-96984-8

Miss Kane has a wonderful premise, but unfortunately, this book suffers from poor characterizations, which is quite strange considering that characterization is touted as Miss Kane's strength in the promo blurbs of the cover. No matter. I have read Miss Kane's early books when she was with Diamond, and I know she can write better characters than Phoebe Hightower and Riley Burnett.

Riley and Phoebe both helped strangers that offer them four wishes (for Phoebe) and a prize that will bring great joy at a great price (for Riley). Riley is a former US Marshal who now curses every day he has to live shackled to his daughter and a life at a town instead of running about free. Phoebe is a woman in poverty who steals for food. One day she wishes for someplace warm, and ta-da! She inherits a hotel. Okay, half a hotel. The other half's Riley's.

They work together, bicker, and have fun. I would've had fun too, if Riley doesn't act like a petulant spoiled brat and Phoebe will stop being a Pollyanna ditz.

I wonder if Pollyannahood is a necessary mantle for Americana heroines, or it's just that everyone's more or less in awe of the good old days when Audrey Hepburn would play the clueless naive ditz who is total mush in the arms of the man who gets her hormones singing. Phoebe is such a softie she cries because the food she stole to survive may deprive other hungry kiddies of their food. You poor thing. But to cry over it for chapters, please - don't make me snort. As a biologist, I subscribe to the instinct for survival theory. A woman gotta do what she can to eat. Phoebe, get a spine. More annoying is her constant prattling and making excuses for every nonsense that childish Riley heaps on her. Riley is a man who can't treat his daughter right to save his life. He neglects her and only collects her grudgingly when her guardians kicked the bucket. Phoebe goes But he at least collects poor daughter! That makes him a wonderful man! This woman insists on completely viewing Riley in a positive light I'm surprised she didn't start a religion with Riley as messiah. Really, Phoebe, get a clue! How a hard life can produce such a naive, prattling woman I would never know.

And as for Riley, all I can say is hmmmph! A grown up man spending three-fourths of a book wanting to be free of responsibility - at his age too! - smacks of the Peter Pan syndrome. That he can sleep with a complete ditz like Phoebe, for whom every man should know that sex = marriage = permanence = happily ever after, makes my hackles rise. Riley ends up looking like a childish, immature, spoiled brat. I'm not sure if he wouldn't feel bored after a year listening to Phoebe's incessant All I Want Is A Room Somewhere chatter.

Oh well, no matter. At least that's one annoying bachelor off the market and another irritating woman out of the run in the marriage mart. Other heroes and heroines can now breathe easy.

Rating: 44

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