I love finding new-to-me authors. Kathleen Nance has written two other books and two novellas, and I may have to go find them if they’re all as charming as this novel.
Centuries ago, the gods of Olympus ruled the earth. Zeus, the ruler, dallied with many women, among them Io. Long story short, he turned her into a cow to hide her from his wife, Hera, who found out anyway and took the cow. Zeus eventually restored her to human form, promising never to pay attention to her again, but her descendants have been unlucky in love ever since. Now he’s decided to help the relatives of the women he’s harmed.
Enter Joy Taylor, descendant of Io. Joy had loved Mark Hennessy in high school, and though he graduated a year before she did, he promised to return on her graduation night. He never showed up, and a heartbroken Joy moved on. Now he’s back, a world-famous magician (and a descendant of the god Hermes, the original smooth-talking trickster) on a secret mission.
Joy is the kind of heroine I like to read about. She’s not drop-dead gorgeous, she’s not a candidate for sainthood although she is a caretaker, and she doesn’t fight her feelings too much. She acknowledges what her feelings are and doesn’t obsess over them. She’s also not too feisty, staying put when Mark tells her to and taking only moderately risky chances instead of foolhardy ones.
Mark is handsome and talented and quite a smooth talker. He knows as soon as he sees Joy that he still wants her, and he goes after her. He’s got a few things to learn, though, such as how to listen and give Joy what she needs.
Kudos to Nance for avoiding the Huge Misunderstanding of harboring old grudges ad nauseam. Joy and Mark talk about the past and he explains what happened. The kudo turns into a quibble only because the explanation should have been the first thing he told Joy; instead, he shares the explanation somewhat later.
The chemistry between Joy and Mark worked for me. That was obvious when I found myself actually reading the love scenes instead of skimming them to get back to the story. The attraction was apparent when they first saw each other, and while Mark worked it as soon as he saw Joy, Joy didn’t fight it overly much.
I love the touch of mythology that Nance adds to this story. I’ve always enjoyed the Greek myths, and the twist to the gods’ background seems to fit. Zeus and Hera are great secondary characters, and their attempt at a reunion is amusing. Joy’s mother and sister and Mark’s assistants complete the cast of likable characters. Guy Centurion is the unlikable character, the villain we know from almost the beginning. I liked the scene where an ostrich helps Centurion get what he’s earned.
I think there may be another book with Zeus and Hera as matchmakers. They agree to work together at the end, and I hope that means a sequel. There’s almost nothing I didn’t like about this book. No purple prose, no babies and no angst. I wish that I had saved this novel for a slump. It’s the perfect pick-me-up. I only hope others enjoy it as much as I did.