The Native Star
It amazes me that in the over-packed world of paranormal romance complete gems can still be found. Fresh, original stories in exciting new voices are just waiting for the cover to be cracked open. The Native Star is one such book, with an original setting; fantastic characters; and a new, exciting world to be explored.
Small town witch Emily Edwards loves her home but recently that love hasn’t really been reciprocated. The good people of Lost Pine have been buying mail-order patent magicks, a practice which leaves Emily with no real way to make a living. Her solution? A love potion on the richest man in town. Naturally, the party that was to end with a moonlit stroll (and possibly a proposal!) winds up with her being chased by zombies and in unwilling possession of a dangerous magical artifact. And to make matters worse the only one who can help her is the pompous, arrogant and waaay too full of himself Dreadnought Stanton.
Having studied at a distinguished East Coast magical academy, Warlock Dreadnought Stanton sees it as both his obligation and privilege to bring modern magical practices to the everyday, backwoods (and undoubtedly backwards) witch. As far as he is concerned no one could fit that bill quite as well as Emily. But when she attracts what appears to be the most powerful natural magical artifact known to man, he finds himself changing position from never received teacher to reluctantly wanted rescuer. The two begin a dangerous trek to find a solution to Emily’s ever growing problem, their reluctant alliance serving as a bridge to a grudging friendship – and perhaps, something even more unexpected.
The old west comes to wonderful life in this tale of adventure. The author does a terrific job of balancing her historical background with the addition of the fantastical elements of magic. The resulting landscape, complete with Indian shamans and traveling preachers, is creative and lively with just enough historical accuracy to give a real flavor for time and place. I loved how the author embraced difficult subjects like prejudice against Native Americans, showed both sides of the story, and yet came out clearly on the side of non-bigotry without ever resorting to preaching.
Emily is a terrific character. I love strong women who are also confident, competent, and practical – and she is all those things. Emily handles what comes her way, willing to take advice as needed, but always ready to think her way through a problem. I liked that there wasn’t a spell for every little difficulty, but that a combination of magic, wits and good old American can-do attitude were required to overcome the issues that came their way.
Dreadnought was a rare – and fabulous – type of hero. He had more of an intellectual bent than we normally see in a romance hero, and he wasn’t one to look first to violence to resolve every issue. But he showed himself more than competent against horrific enemies and terrifying situations. I liked his intelligence, his general air of sophistication and his learned manner. I also liked that he respected the abilities of those around him – like Emily and the native shamans that he knew. With every reason to be proud and pompous, he turned out to be more reserved and cautious. It was funny to see a character like this in the Old West but the author really made it work, showing us how he was the perfect man to be in that time and place.
With everything this book had going for it, it was racing toward a perfect A when I discovered a quibble. A minor one but still fairly strong and enough to throw it out of DIK status. The ending was a bit messier and far more complex than it needed to be, taking attention from Dreadnought and Emily’s relationship and disrupting a bit of the focus of the book. I had to go back and do a re-read of that portion to remind myself of exactly what had happened. It did not ruin my reading experience or even my enjoyment of the ending. It just added a bit of mayhem that I felt wasn’t quite needed. I’m sure – very sure – this was done to set up for the next book, but I would have preferred the book to have a cleaner, more concise finish.
But that’s a quibble. This is really a must try for any fan of paranormal romance. I fully expect it to be my new author “find” of the year.