A Passionate Magic
by Flora Speer, historical (2001)
LoveSpell, $5.50, ISBN 0-505-52439-2

The only bright spark A Passionate Magic has going for it is its heroine Lady Emma, an above-average intelligent woman for a romance heroine. Everything else is just plain illogical plot twists and cringe-inducing characterizations, although APM remains readable even at its rockiest.

Lady Emma offers herself as a substitute to her seven-year old step-sister when the latter is offered as a bride to Dain of Penruan (year 1129 type of peace-keeping measure between two feuding lords, that sort of thing). I really laugh when her parents, while discussing their fears that Dain will lynch Emma, decide to send Emma anyway because while they love Emma dearest even though she's not Daddy's daughter, she wants a husband and kids, so who are they, Parents Dearest, to stand in their daughter's wishes. Logic is not one of APM's strongest points.

Emma gets a less than welcome reception. Dane's intention is to reject Emma to shame her father and all, but he is soon caught under our beauty's spell (even though, of course, beauty insists that she is no beauty). Put in his constant attempt to push her away, his mother-from-hell's shrill attempts to rip Emma apart in over-the-top hysterics (silently abetted by Dain in his refusal to take his mother to task), and an annoying tendency to blame women for men's stupidity and APM gives me a headache. Dain is a typical stupid, suspicious, it's-all-the-bitch's-fault oaf whose stupidity is blamed on some women in his past. And don't get me started about his mother.

Funny thing is, I think the author knows where she is going. At one point, she even has Emma declaring that the whole feud between Dain and her father is stupid. Emma is a wry, witty heroine who seems to play the cynical observer of the lunacy of the plot she is trapped in rather than a romance heroine. She also has a secret - she's a sorceress of sorts, which again leads to stupid Dain getting all suspicious about her bewitching him into sleeping with her. Please, Dain, don't flatter yourself, dumbass.

I don't know. APM has all the ingredients for a bad medieval romance, but at the same time, Emma seems to be enjoying the joke. She knows she's trapped in a medieval romance from hell, and she doesn't hesitate to tell Dain, Mommy-in-Law From Hell, and me that. She never lets anyone step on her, and she is a great heroine.

I can't help feeling that the author is trying to pull a satire on her readers. If that is so, APM is a pretty good one. Too bad no one thought of gagging that Mommy-in-Law from hell. Oh, I can still hear her shrill shriekings in my head...

Rating: 70

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