Kathleen Nance’s Spellbound features a great hero, a great setting, and some nifty mythology. But the heroine and plot are both overly complicated, and the balance between light and dark story elements is out of whack, resulting in a somewhat disappointing reading experience.
As Minstrel of Zaf, the planet inhabited by (it seems) many, many sexy djinn (genies to you and me), Zayne’s beautiful voice and music keep both his land his people in harmony. But a disturbance of the mystical force in his music leads Zayne to travel to earth to master the negative force by finding his true mate – a woman shown to him in a vision as earth-dweller Madeline Fairbanks.
Daughter of a rock singer mom now confined to a psychiatric institution, Madeline suffers from debilitating stage fright that’s about to cost her the job she desperately wants to keep. Along with her assignment to acquire “more style” and get over her stage fright, holding on to her job also involves locating her missing sinister stepfather. (Don’t you think that employer has to be violating about six million laws with all those demands?)
It seems that said sinister stepdad had some kind of unholy hold on Madeline’s mom that he ruthlessly exploited while managing her career into megastardom – think Svengali with magic. Even though finding the missing evil magician guy is the last thing she wants to do, Madeline nonetheless sets out to fulfill her employer’s request. And the appearance of a sexy genie who’s been invited to stay in the New Orleans home where Madeline is house sitting is a distraction the young woman doesn’t need.
Truncating the myriad details of this plot wasn’t easy and keeping track of it while reading the book isn’t a piece of cake either. Suffice it to say that Madeline’s got mystical connections to Zayne. Zayne knows he’s her soul mate. Wicked stepdad creeps Madeline out – for good reason. Evil stepdad has connections to Zayne. Mom’s illness just might be caused by sinister stepdad. And everything ends happily.
What did work here was Zayne. Hey, a half-naked, long-haired, perfect-bodied genie who’s a master of the sensual arts (and a musician, too!) works pretty darn well in the fantasy department. Oh, baby. But in addition to her memorable hero, Kathleen Nance also does a great job in conjuring (sorry) the steamy ambiance of a New Orleans summer. What I found more problematic was the semi-serious plot (featuring some really bad and creepy stuff) interspersed with lighter-toned magic and mysticism. For me at any rate, this rather awkward juxtaposition of tone and subject just didn’t click. And, it must be said, I did lose patience with heroine Madeline. While it’s not fair to call her spineless, she wears her victimhood a bit too comfortably for my taste.
But there’s a lot to make Spellbound worth picking up – especially if you think you might get into the genie thing. Though this was my first Kathleen Nance, it’s a safe bet that it won’t be my last – she’s got a nice touch with a fantasy and I’m certainly up for more.