Magic Man is the latest in a long series by Patricia Rice. The leads were engaging, but sometimes got lost in what seemed like a cast of thousands, and for those readers like me who haven’t read previously in this series, confusion reigned for some time until I was able to determine what was going on.
Mora Abbot was adopted by a vicar and his wife when her mother, believed to be a witch, was killed in a mysterious fire. All Mora has left is her mother’s book of spells. When her adopted parents die, Mora feels free to explore the intriguing book and finds clues that point to the possibility of family in Scotland. Her friend and neighbor, the Duchess of Sommersville, is heading north for her sister’s lying in at Drogo, the Earl of Ives’s, castle and takes Mora with her to aid in her search.
Aidan Dougal is a neighbor of Drogo, and his castle and lands are in jeopardy of being given to another – legitimate – heir of his mother’s. His aunt has brought a lawsuit to gain possession of the land in order to extend the coal mining she does on her own land into his. Aidan is desperate to find another heir to stop her in order to save the land and his people, and so has called upon his powerful neighbor for help in the search. Aidan learned some time ago that he is the half brother of Drogo and his numerous brothers, though Aidan has kept this knowledge a secret from them. I never felt it was ever satisfactorily explained why, other than some vague feelings of unworthiness on Aidan’s part.
Almost all of the Ives brothers seem to have married almost all of the Malcolm sisters and they traditionally travel to the ancestral castle to give birth, so most all of the couples from the five previous books are there. The Malcolm women are also all steeped in magic, though each has a different gift. One of them who sees auras tells Mora and Aidan that they both have a hint of the Malcolm aura, and indeed, both of them have some magic in them.
Aidan has a connection with the earth; he has the ability to easily find gem deposits, which served him well in India where he made his fortune, and when he is angry his mood effects the environment – rafters shake, the ground trembles, trees are uprooted. His mother always told him this was his magic at work, but Aidan refuses to believe in magic. Good luck accounts for the knack of finding things, and as for the other, catastrophes just seem to happen around him. Mora has always wished for the talent her mother had, and now she begins to experience some glimmers of it. She hears her mother’s voice in her head, and Mora’s handwriting is channeling someone giving dire warnings that the family is in jeopardy.
Aidan and Mora meet when they join forces to vanquish the thieves who attacked Mora in the woods. Aidan, a gigantic guy, is very impressed with Mora’s grit and fierceness and Mora admires Aidan’s fierceness as well as his body. Each immediately begins to think of the other as a potential spouse.
I liked both Aidan and Mora. Her search and longing for a family are touching. Her desire to share in her mother’s legacy and her excitement as she starts to display signs of it was fun and made me root for her. Aidan is a lonely man, desperate for love and dealing with his own longing for his unacknowledged family. He did frustrate me at times with his refusal to accept the fact of his powers and the great lengths he goes to in order to deny them. Rationalization is one thing; this was just willful obstinacy. But I did like the relationship between the two; they are a good match and the attraction between them felt genuine.
What I didn’t like was almost everything else. As I said, it took a while – too long a while – to get settled into the story and work out who everyone was. I finished the book not knowing who was married to whom in a couple of instances. Perhaps if I had read the previous books, I would have liked seeing these characters again, but as it was, there were too many of them, taking up too much space and time away from Mora and Aidan. In addition, the last third of Magic Man felt bogged down with Aidan’s monumental denial and the increased hocus pocus factor.
I feel almost sure that fans of the series will enjoy Aidan’s story more than I did, as he has, apparently, been an integral part of the previous books, but, coming into it cold, Magic Man does not inspire me to delve further into the series.