Love seems to me to be a fairly magical thing, especially in romance novels. What could be more magical than the unlikely coupling of the gentlemanly Geoffrey and the shrewish Elene in Deborah Simmons The De Burgh Bride or Reggie’s rake and Alys’s reformer in Mary Jo Putney’s The Rake? Sometimes of course, magic makes a tale more fun. What would the story of Cinderella be without a fairy godmother? But magic is a delicate ingredient. Like spice in a soup it’s easy to use too much. Sometimes it’s better if the spices are left out so that the dish can shine on its own. This brings me to Southern Charms a love story which would have been far more magical without the magic.
The book begins with Fatima, a curvaceous, luxury loving fairy godmother. Fatima is contemplating bringing two unlikely people together. They are Shane, a wealthy New York businessman, whose arm and back have been horribly scarred in a steamboat fire and Ellie an adopted daughter who runs a ranch for her mother and sister in Texas.
After a fairly silly opening chapter featuring Fatima’s cat Pandora and her friend Cupid, the real story begins. It is 1890. Shane Morgan travels to Texas to determine if Ellie Parker is a missing heiress, the long lost child of his mother’s best friend. Under the guise of looking for investments, Shane gets to know Ellie and her family. The family includes Ellie’s spoiled sister Darlene and her selfish adopted mother Elvina. True to the Cinderella format, Ellie runs the ranch and slaves for her ungrateful family.
Shane pretends to be interested in buying the ranch so he can get to know Ellie. Both hero and heroine have serious problems that make them vulnerable. He is convinced that no woman will love him once she has seen his scarred body. She believes that no man worthy of her will accept a woman whose origins are unknown. Throughout the story Fatima makes semi-comic appearances – she cooks up delicious meals, gives Ellie toiletries, and has an affair with Shane’s valet, Withers.
The chemistry between Shane and Ellie is the best thing about Southern Charms. It takes quite a while for the first love scene but there is lots of romantic tension and I enjoyed seeing these two together.
Shane is particularly engaging. He’s one of those big clumsy heroes who falls in love with a tiny delicate woman. Poor Shane is so undone by the experience that he just doesn’t know what to do with himself.
Ellie is an intelligent, independent heroine who works hard and depends on herself. Ordinarily this is my kind of heroine, but Ellie spoils it by constantly getting into silly tiffs with Shane, (whenever they get in an argument she refuses to speak to him) and picking on Fatima for interfering with her life.
Now I ask you, if a fairy godmother offered to grant your every wish, would you purposely ignore her? Would you stamp your foot, pout, and tell her to go away? No? Let’s say you are madly in love with a man and you think he might not marry you. Do you insult the fairy godmother who offers to make your dreams come true? That’s what Ellie does. By the end of the book I was so tired of her tantrums and silences I wondered how Shane was going to put up with her once they were married.
Why Southern Charms needed to be a paranormal (beyond the fact that this is Jove’s Magical Love series), I do not understand. Most of the book works as a romance and that was all the story I needed. The paranormal aspects seemed jarring. Whenever they appeared, I felt pulled out of the story. I’m not sure everyone would feel the same. If you are looking for a paranormal western and you don’t mind extraneous fairy godmothers, this book might suit after all.