Desert Isle Keeper
I first read Jill Barnett’s Bewitching when it came out a few years ago. I loved it then. When I reread it to do this review, I loved it even more. It is a historical romance with a twist – a supernatural twist woven so skillfully into the plot of the story that it actually becomes secondary to the real story. The real story is the love story between a punctilious, automaton of an English duke and an inept, but good-intentioned Scottish witch.
Joyous Fiona MacQuarrie and Alec Castlemaine meet when Joy literally falls out of the sky and knocks Alec flat on his back. Alec was on his way to his hunting lodge “to shoot something”, as he puts it, after being jilted by his fiancee. Joy doesn’t quite get a traveling incantation right and ends up landing on top of Alec after she knocks him over. In the process, she sprains her ankle and Alec takes her to the nearest inn so they can find a physician. Alec, in a snit after being jilted, decides Joy would make him a suitable duchess. He kisses her senseless into accepting a marriage proposal, although she does insist she has something to tell him first! From the moment Alec and Joy collide on the forest floor, they feel an irresistible attraction for each other. The difference is Joy admits it. Alec fights it.
Alec Castlemaine, 15th Duke of Belmore, is a career control-freak. He is so predictable that a London bakery knows it’s time to close when he goes by every day on the way to his club. When he marries Joy, he thinks he knows what he’s getting. On their wedding night, Joy tells Alec that she is a witch. He doesn’t believe her. To prove her point, she uses a little witchcraft. She raises Alec and the wing chair he is sitting in until they are five feet off the floor. Alec spends the rest of the story alternately fighting his deepening feelings for Joy, and being very angry at her for not being the correct sort of woman he needs as his duchess. Alec’s internal struggle is endearing and creates some of the best moments in the story. At one point, in his anger, he yells, “Something terrible did happen. I married you.” Joy was deeply hurt until Alec found a wonderful way to make amends.
Joy MacQuarrie, one-quarter Scottish witch, feels there is something missing from her life. When she and Alec crash onto the ground, she realizes not only what, but who is missing from her life. She sees past the control-freak facade – something no one else has been able to do. Joy loves Alec, and wants him to love her, but she doesn’t put up with any of his crap. One evening, Alec makes her so mad that she sends him and his snifter of brandy up to the ceiling and dumps the brandy on his head – this despite the fact that Alec has ordered her not to use her witchcraft.
Alec and Joy’s story has many magical moments. Pink rose petals rain down on them every time they make love, interesting things happen when Joy sneezes, and statues come to life and dance on rooftops.
There is, as well, an excellent cast of secondary characters. They are Richard Lennox, earl of Downe, and Neil Herndon, Viscount Seymour, who are Alec’s friends since they were all together at Eton. They provide dry humor and witty repartee. There is Beezle, Joy’s familiar and pet ermine weasel, who hangs on people’s backs and eats their hair. And, Stephen Castlemaine, a brother Alec never knew he had. Stephen paves the way for Alec’s final confrontation with himself and, subsequently, Alec finally telling Joy that he loves her.
This is one of those books that is so good that when you finish it, you want to tell everyone about it. It should be required reading not only for romance fans, but for anyone who just wants to read a good story. It is Alec and Joy’s story, but it is so much more. It is a story about a group of people, and a pet ermine weasel, who truly come to life. I didn’t want the story to end – I wanted more. And, in a way, there is more. Jill Barnett’s Dreaming is the story of Richard Lennox, earl of Downe, and Letitia Horsby, the troublesome chit who follows him around town in Bewitching. Neil Herndon, Viscount Seymour, also finds the love of his life in this book. And, once in awhile, Alec and Joy make an appearance.
Bewitching is that rare romance that combines laughter, tears, and sumptuous love scenes. The humor and pathos are woven together so that you will be laughing and crying, sometimes on the same page. As surely as Joyous did Alec, this book will bewitch you, right down to the epilogue, which is one of the most joyous and funny I’ve ever read.