Must Be Magic
by Patricia Rice, historical/paranormal (2002)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-20675-4

This is a book in the ongoing series of the paranormally-inclined Malcolm women. The previous book is Merely Magic, and I suggest that newbies read that one first, as the identity and role of several key characters here aren't exactly made clear in this book. Or maybe it's just me - I have some problem recalling who is who myself when I first started this book.

Widowed Leila Malcolm Staines is an anomaly among her family - she doesn't seem to have any paranormal skills at all. But she's good at making perfumes, and now that she's a widow, she has grand plans of starting her own business. But she is also very good at killing plants, so she needs someone to help her gardens grow. I do mean that in more ways that one, as she is also apparently barren, or so she thinks, until the hero Dunstan Ives (brother of her brother-in-law, and please don't try to imagine anything eeuw-worthy like swinging scenarios, people) liberally sprinkles his fertilizer... wait, wrong word, this is not a fetish story, um, sprinkles his seed, yeah that's the word, seed and Leila's garden blooms in more ways than one. Ivan's fingers aren't the only things in his body that are green. I mean that figuratively, of course.

But Ives men, according to Fate and Destiny, will bring nothing but trouble to Malcolm women. Trouble here may be Dunstan not wanting to fertilize Leila, but he mistakes her one day when she lets her hair down as someone else, and his garden hose begins to drip-drip-drip. She tells him that her name is Lily, and Dunstan is now tormented by desires of huge corn stalks, luscious melons, and cockerels crowing at dawn proportions. He also has his hands full trying to control his kid. I'm talking a real human kid, not his... oh, never mind.

Okay, Must Be Magic is sprinkled with enough predictable and trite plot elements to drive me into a state of tabula rasa, but at the same time, I really like the main characters, damn the catatonia. Dunstan and his kid really charm me - he does try to be a good daddy, you know, and I like that. Leila is a great heroine too in that she doesn't do that "Ee-ee, I'm an innocent and stupid Plot Contrivance" thing too much, and she likes sex. Cool. She and Dunstan don't exactly blow the glasshouse apart with their anther-pistil attractions, but the pollinization is pretty hot. They're alright together, I guess, because they come off in this story as two people who are genuinely fond of each other.

It's also pretty cute how Dunstan has a reputation (AKA Operation Blame Slut Wife) but he is more a nerdy botanist than a rake.

Must Be Magic, as a romance, is pretty familiar fare. But the main characters are very likeable and charming, and they go some way in making this story worth my time.

Rating: 82

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