The Marriage Spell

Grade : A-
Reviewed by Ellen Micheletti
Grade : A-
Book type : Alternate Reality
Sensuality : Warm
Review Date : June 13, 2006
Published On : 2006

The Marriage Spell is the first in a series set in an alternative Regency England which is familiar in every way except in this England, some people have the ability to perform magic.

In a refreshing change of pace, magic workers – called wizards – are not burned as witches. Centuries earlier wizards proves to be of great help as healers during the time of the Black Death, and ever since, wizards have been part of society. The Church looks upon magic as a gift from God and many ministers are wizards. But not everyone is so tolerant. Distrust and disgust of magic is prevalent in the nobility, most of whom look upon wizards as lower-class and refer to them as wyrdlings. There’s even a school, a sort of anti-Hogwarts called Stonebridge Academy where upper class boys are sent if they show any tendency toward magic. In the prelude we meet Jack Langdon, who was sent to Stonebridge by his father Lord Frayne after being caught practicing a spell.

Twenty years later Jack’s father died, and now Jack prepares to sell his commission, go home, and take his place as Lord Frayne. One day while at his hunting box, Jack and his horse are seriously injured. Jack has a broken neck and is almost dead. There is a magical healer in the neighborhood, Abigail Barton, who has long loved Jack from afar and she agrees to try and heal him, but as her price she asks him to marry her. Jack agrees, and Abby is able to heal his broken neck, and heal his horse’s broken leg. They marry despite Jack’s disgust toward the practice of magic. However, magic is an inborn thing, and Jack’s stint at school did not drive magic away from him entirely. When Jack and Abby return to his home, they find they will need all their combined magical talent and their love as well, to defeat a great evil that has taken hold there.

The Marriage Spell was a wonderful combination of Fantasy and Romance that had me hooked from the first page. Jack and Abby were both immensly likable characters, and the book focuses on their slowly getting to know each other. Jack’s injuries were so severe that Abby wasn’t able to heal them totally; he is unable to consummate the marriage and requires a long recuperation and much nursing care. He and Abby are in each other’s company almost constantly. They are both sensible people and instead of glowering, pouting, and acting childish, they talk – and they listen to each other. Jack comes to see that magic is not horrible, wizards are not evil, and he himself has a magical talent that was ruthlessly suppressed.

Abby is a beauty with a very low opinion of her looks. With her thick brown hair and tall and curvaceous body, she has always felt awkward since society’s ideal is the dainty, petite blonde. Her magical talent also isolated her, and even though she is of a good family, the nobility’s attitude toward wizards left her isolated. She longs for a husband and children and proposes to Jack since she feels this is the only way she will get the children she longs for. She does have pangs of guilt for coercing him into marriage, but it doesn’t take him long to fall in love with such a kindhearted and intelligent woman.

The conflict comes rather late in the book, after Abby and Jack return to his estate. Jack’s mother and her second husband Scranton live there, and it’s very obvious something is wrong with the land and with Jack’s mother as well. By this time, Jack and Abby are united and strong and they need all their strength to fight the evil that is sapping the land.

I’ll admit that I haven’t enjoyed Mary Jo Putney’s last few books, but with The Marriage Spell, she’s back in form. I savored every word of her beautiful prose and can’t wait for the next book in the series. At her best, no one can top Putney when it comes to depicting the emotions her characters feel, and she is at the top of her game here – this is the MJP of the Fallen Angels series and The Rake. I loved this book – simply loved it!

Ellen Micheletti

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