If you’ve been a fan of Nora Roberts for a while, it will be nearly impossible for you to not compare the new Cousins O’Dwyer trilogy with some of Roberts’ older works. Sadly, making such comparisons can only end badly for Shadow Spell. Much like the first book in this new trilogy, the second installment suffered from a slow, unexciting storyline and ho-hum romance.
As I read Shadow Spell, I was reminded of one of Roberts’ older books set in Ireland, Tears of the Moon. I absolutely loved that book. Shadow Spell has a similar storyline of old friends falling for each other and the same Irish charm. The difference is that Connor and Meara lack the chemistry and push-and-pull that made me enjoy reading about Brenna and Shawn’s story. Conner and Meara have been friends for ages and, although they were each other’s first kiss, nothing romantic has ever sparked between them. Now, the adrenaline from an encounter with the evil sorcerer Cabhan has driven them into each other’s arms.
I didn’t totally believe Conner and Meara’s conversion from just friends to more. It just sort of happened out of the blue and they were both fine with it and went on their merry way. One thing that made Tears of the Moon so great was how genuinely shocked Shawn was over Brenna’s sexual interest in him. I think that things were just too easy for the Shadow Spell couple. It made me wonder why, if they’re so comfortable with the idea of falling in bed together, had they not done it so far. They were both unattached adults and there was nothing keeping them apart. The issue with their relationship developing so flawlessly is that it takes the reader out of the story. Suddenly, it is overly evident how the timing of their relationship is totally contrived. So Iona and Boyle got together and have the brief lapse between books to develop their relationship, so now it is Meara and Conner’s turn.
The conflict with Cabhan was just totally uninteresting to me in this book. Each attack is pretty much the same, which is the same as every one in the first book. I actually think the prologues involving Sorcha, the original dark witch, and her children have more interesting interactions. Now that Sorcha’s son, Eamon, is grown we got to see a darker, more desperate side of Cabhan. Unfortunately, that story really only happens for the first couple of chapters. It does seem like Sorcha’s story might have been more interesting than this modern day tale. It also seemed as though our magical characters made a big jump in paranormal ability between books. I don’t remember Branna and Conner being able to do whatever they wanted with a swish of their hand in the first book, so the first time Branna made a roasted chicken poof out of thin air, it threw me. She also uses magic to alter a dress in what had to have been one of the cheesiest scenes I’ve read in a long time. How does one develop this magical alterations skill? It made me laugh because all I could think of was the fairies in the Sleeping Beauty cartoon working on Aurora’s dress and changing it from pink to blue and back again.
The run-ins with Cabhan are really the only conflict there is in this story. While there was that story to serve as external conflict, I would’ve liked some type of internal conflict from the characters. There was little driving them to be together, nothing challenged their relationship, there was nothing driving them apart. I wanted to see some kind of personal growth or emotional growth from Conner and Meara. I kept reading and thinking that any page now, something would have to happen. It never did.
The biggest plus I can give this book is that at least Conner and Meara were more interesting characters than Iona and Boyle, the previous couple. Conner is kind of charming and fun to read. Also, we got a little more interaction between Branna and Fin. Of the three, theirs is the story I actually want to read. They have some built-in tension to work through thanks to their past and Fin’s relation to Cabhan. I am holding out hope that Roberts makes the best out of that in the next book and doesn’t resolve things too easily.
I think one of the biggest complaints longtime fans will have with Shadow Spell is that it really is nothing new. It seems obvious that Roberts’ trilogies have gotten formulaic, which may be all that can be expected from someone writing two-hundred plus books in roughly the same category. This new trilogy is much like the Gallaghers of Ardmore and the Key trilogies, although probably not as well written. I am really holding out hope for the last book, Blood Magick, but they’re not high hopes. As for the first two books, maybe just skip them and read one of her better trilogies that will give you the same magical or Irish feel.