Bewitched, by Sandra Schwab

26 Jun

Bewitched, by Sandra Schwab

This is the second book by Ms Schwab that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. It most definitely won’t be the last.

Like Castle of the Wolf, Bewitched is very much a romance. Like Castle of the Wolf, it is also something more, something else, something different. We could, perhaps, paraphrase a reader’s expression *waving to Bev(QB)*, and say that this book is historical urban fantasy, for, while it is set in 1820, and respects all the historical conventions of the time as well as those of historical romance, it also invites the reader to suspend her disbelief and believe in magic, both white and black.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

Sweet passion…
After a magical mishap that turned her uncle’s house blue, Miss Amelia Bourne was stripped of her powers and sent to London in order to be introduced into polite society—and to find a suitable husband. Handsome, rakish Sebastian “Fox” Stapleton was all that and more. He was her true love.
Wasn’t he?
… or the bitter taste of deceit
At Rawdon Park, the country estate of the Stapletons, Amy began to wonder. Several inexplicable events suggested that one sip of punch had changed her life forever—that this love, this lust, was nothing but an illusion. She and Fox were pawns in some mysterious game, and black magic had followed them out of Town. Without her powers, would she be strong enough to battle those dark forces and win? And would she be able to claim her heart’s true desire? Magic potion or no, what she felt for Fox was a spell that could never be broken.

When Fox and Amy first meet, there are no fireworks—unless a certain distaste for each other’s company can be called that. They don’t see anything redeeming in each other, and as far as it goes, they don’t seem to have any commonality in conversation, upbringing, or interests. If left to their own devices, it’s unlikely two such personalities would have seen beyond the masks to the people inside.

But they are not left to their own devices, for vengeance and magic conspire to bind them together, and reason threatens to tear them apart. From a relatively slow start, the story picks up, and I was left racing ahead, anxious to know what would happen, what comes next.

I enjoyed Ms Schwab’s use of changing perspectives throughout the story. During the first third of the book or so, the point of view switches from Fox’s to Amy’s, charting the changes in their relationship, their deepening attraction to each other, highlighting those fleeting moments where the strength of their personalities bypassed that of the spell and allowed them to see each other for who they truly are.

For the next third of the book, we are privy only to Amy’s perspective, her thoughts, her feelings, her fears, her knowledge… and her awareness of just how little she knows, and how little she can truly do to protect these people who she has come to love—for now she knows that, in spite of the magic cast upon them, her love for Fox is true and real. And so she is willing to risk everything she is for a chance to keep them safe.

For the last third of the novel, we follow Fox in his fight against himself. For, just as Amy struggled with her fears and her knowledge, now he must struggle as well, and, indeed, his pride and his insecurities make this such a hard battle to wage. But he also has to fight the remnants of evil to bring Amy back to him; and just as she saved him and those he loves, now he must save her.

I am sure that some readers could object to what can be perceived as an anti-climax in the last few chapters, but I love it. How timely is it that in this beautifully written novel, both the hero and the heroine must save each other in turn! And how wonderful indeed that the hero doesn’t suddenly become an all-knowing, all-confident jerk who experiences no fear or doubt in his quest to save his lady. No, indeed. Until the last moment, Fox doesn’t know whether his love will be enough to save Amy—while hers, and her power, were more than enough to protect his family. To the last moment of this struggle, her strength guides him.

Amy is such a wonderful character. She is strong even when she fears her own weakness, and lets her generous heart guide her during moments of darkness and uncertainty. For his part, Sebastian’s reactions and feelings are so well drawn, so deeply felt, that my heart ached for both of them.

There are, to be sure, some loose threads that I would have liked to see explained. Who, exactly, was this Lady Margaret? What is the story of the Dowager Countess and Fox’s father? For that matter, what’s the story of Richard, Earl of Rawdon, and Mirabella, his wife? What part, exactly, does Admiral Reitz play in all this? What will become of Isabella and her family? But in the end, not knowing every single last detail doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of the novel by one whit—for they are all fully realized characters (with the possible exception of the villain and his lady).

This is a total winner and gets 9 out of 10

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