Oh, those tormented heroes and heroines. Life is just so darn hard for many of them that it takes a whole book to end the torment. Even one lead character spending the entire book in deep mental anguish is frustrating for me as a reader – but both, well, let’s just say that I’m not a very happy camper. Lord of Illusions is just such a book.
Rowan Du La Fey was to be wed to England’s soon-to-be King of Witches as soon as she reached an acceptable age. Without the protection of her mother, from whom she inherited her magical gifts, her father fears her powers and quickly sells her off to the current French King of Witches. Instead of marrying Rowan off to his son, he decides, despite the fact that he is 30 years her senior, that he will marry Rowan himself. So Rowan finds herself pregnant and wed at the ripe age of 13 to a man old enough to be her father. The French King of Witches controls and uses her witchy gifts for his own gains and leaves her in ignorance about those same gifts so that she never learns her own strengths. When the French King of Witches finally dies, Rowan considers herself and her daughter to finally be free. Much to her grief, the newly-appointed King of Witches in France, although not evil like his father, blackmails her by threatening to marry her daughter off if she doesn’t use her gifts (one of which is mind-reading) for the benefit of Napoleon. She is forced to agree, and heads off to England to serve as a governess for an English diplomatic household, and begins to send sensitive information back to France.
Damien, who was Rowan’s original intended and now is England’s King of Witches, is a man without his magical heritage. He lost it during the war against Napoleon, and it has never returned, leaving Damien physically healthy but unable to do any magic. Although he feels helpless, he is sent on a mission by England’s war department to find the information leak. He arrives at a certain English diplomatic household disguised as a magician traveling with the Romany (gypsies). He infiltrates the household thinking that the diplomat living there (Sir Hector) has changed his loyalties, but is unable to find proof, or even see any suspicious behavior in Sir Hector. He does however find himself to be enchanted by the governess.
Rowan and Damien both attempt to stop their attraction, for similar reasons. They both are hiding something, they both are tormented about something, and they both think the other is a non-witch, and therefore non-marriageable. It takes the whole book for the truth to come out, when everything straightens itself out and England has itself a new Queen of Witches.
Complicated? This review may make it seem that way, but Rita Boucher mastered all that stuff very well and kept it flowing smoothly. I liked the magical theme – the intricate witch culture, the familiars (animal companions to witches), the heritage. I liked the secondary characters, especially the French King of Witches, who was one of the antagonists, but not truly evil.
Many readers of romances like tormented heroes and heroines. I don’t mind them too much if they manage to do something about whatever torments them sooner rather than later. Lord of Illusions covered way too much of the angst – page upon page of why Damien was anguished, or Rowan. I learned much more about their problems than their strengths, and therefore, didn’t find them to be too sympathetic. At the end I felt more relief that the whole thing was over than happy that they managed to begin a happily-ever-after.
Lord of Illusions is a sequel to The Would Be Witch, which to me is a much more well-rounded book. Rita Boucher is definitely worth a try if you like Regencies. And, if you like tormented heroes and heroines, then Lord of Illusions just might be the book for you.
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