Magic Spells
by Christy Yorke, paranormal (1999)
Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-57842-1

Some people don't deserve their luck. When I was young I wanted to be a witch and cast magic spells. The heroine in this book is a witch but she wastes her potential as an interesting heroine by acting stupid, thinking silly, and generally being a complete twit throughout the whole book. Like I said, some people are just plain dumb when it comes to fulfilling their potential.

One more thing: it's obviously this book is groomed as the next Practical Magic (by Alice Hoffman). Too bad dearie, Practical Magic has whimsy, magic, and lyrical eccentricity in spades, and the story is very romantic too. Magic Spells reads like those silly women magazine short stories. It even comes complete with Instant Guilt-ridden Can't-trust-men Heroine (just add angst and a spoonful of freeze-quick attitude), token cute boy included. Add a hero who's married and a token bad boy second suitor and - voila! - Insta-Women's Fiction.

Seven years ago our stupid heroine is engaged to Ned Payton because according to her, Ned's a lady-magnet and she must fall in love with him. Ned cheats on her and browbeats her, not that he should bother, for our Jane Gregory is the flattest doormat this side of Pendleton, Vermont. Our hero Graham is a doctor and Ned's brother who stands by his brother and lets his true love wilt under his brother's neglect. Nice. Jane makes a wish that Ned will never cheat again and the man immediately gets roasted six feet under.

Jane immediately starts denying her magic gifts and won't trust any more men in her life. She's unlovable, she would from now on sleep only with truck drivers and sleazy cowboys with fake Texan accents, because let's face it, Jane has read too much Elle and Cosmopolitan. Predictability is Jane's middle name. She probably does all those Is Your Lover Cheating On You? It's Your Fault - You Didn't Read Our Article On Page 44 About Lovemaking Secrets! quizzes religiously and pins up the Fifty Ways To Dress And Flirt To Attract Your Guy on her fridge for memorization.

Seven years later Jane drags her son Alex back to Pandleton. Alex's mute, but don't worry, love will save the day and the boy's oral ability. Jane meets Graham again who's married to his school sweetheart and another man Devon Zeke whose attraction is a personality similar to late Ned's.

Ms Yorke's not Alice Hoffman. Her attempts to be fanciful and lyrical more often than not go way out of her control. Jane breaks her broomstick in her stressed-out condition, but that comes out corny. Likewise, many magical moments when Jane rediscovers her magical gift come off as third-rate contrivances. The prose sometimes become suffocating in its overflowery extravaganza, reminding me of too-thick perfume. Gag.

Then there's Jane and her mother, two nitwits who marry bad boys and wail when they can't change them to Ikea poster boys. Jane has been burned once, so she spends her time swinging between wild attraction to Devon and wondering what the heck was wrong with men. It took her 30 years to see that she's the ninny who's a dolt to be every bad boy's doormat, but hey, some people learn slower than others, I guess.

The saving grace is poor quiet Alex, whose timidness somehow sneaked into my heart somewhere along the story. Alex's the sole stable anchor amidst the too-airy prose surrounding him in the story. Likewise, the last few chapters of MS are great. Ms Yorke reins in her prose and tightens her characters too late however. For far too long Jane's stubborn mule-like behavior and repetitious angst are given free rein. Jane doesn't deserve this story, she deserves to star in The Amnesiac Virgin Bride With A Secret Baby and A Need To Have A Baby NOW & The Millionaire Texan Rancher Secret Agent Who Poses As Her Fake Fiance So That She Could Inherit Daddy's Money (She Needs To Be Married Before 30 - Girlfriend, Feel The Biological Clock Tick! You Need A Sperm Donor!).

I'm putting this overbloated book aside to reach once more for my copy of Practical Magic. Magicians and their clever rabbits and kinky handcuff boinking, cops who cry and throw salt over one's shoulder, and a philosophy of falling in love whenever one can... they sure beat a whiny, pop-female magazine material heroine and contrived writing anyday.

Rating: 57

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