The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes
The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes by Jennifer Crusie, Eileen Dreyer, and Anne Stuart is a collaborative novel. The three author’s contributions are welded together so seamlessly that I was never able to pinpoint where one had left off and another began. In the end, my enjoyment of the book in itself was amplified in trying to determine which of the characters were written by which author. For the truly curious, this information can be gathered from the authors’ blogs.
The three Fortune sisters live in the small town of Salem’s Fork, West Virginia. They have great magical talent: Deirdre Dolores (Dee) is a shapeshifter, Elizabeth Alicia (Lizzie) transforms objects, and Moira Mariposa (Mare) can do telekinesis. They can barely control their abilities because they are unschooled, and as they are on the run, they can’t contact other magic-users. Twelve years earlier their evil Aunt Xantippe stripped her parents of their power and killed the couple, who were well-known psychics with their own TV show. Dee, then sixteen, took her younger sisters and ran. They settled in Salem’s Fork and have tried to blend in for years. Dee works at a bank, Lizzie keeps the household while experimenting in her workshop how to turn straw to gold, and Mare has a job at a video store.
Xan’s powers are waning as she approaches menopause, but she intends to steal her nieces’ magic by sending each their True Love, discovered by a spell and manipulated by Xan to come to Salem’s Fork. The men are supposed to make the girls fall in love so madly that each will be happy to give up her magic (powers useless to each as they are and which would be an impediment in each of the relationships) to Xan. In the meantime, Xan has improved on her magic-taking spell in the meantime so that it won’t kill. Hopefully.
Xan’s scenes are delightful. She is very powerful, a complete snob, and unabashedly self-centered, but she is not omnipotent. So whenever something goes wrong with her plans – which it does in very small but charming doses – it’s great fun to read about. In addition, her scenes include a lovely little take on May-December relationships which is a true delight.
The first thing that goes wrong is that not three, but four hunks turn up. It’s made clear very quickly who the true True Love in this case is, but that the rejected suitor is put to use later is as unexpected as it is funny. Then a libido spell misfires with very interesting result, and not just on the folks for whom it was intended. The book is filled with situational comedy, which I really enjoyed.
Eldest sister Dee is the most sensible and the most repressed. She hates her job at the bank and would rather paint full-time, but on the other hand, her early experiences as part of her parents’ stage show have given her such a disgust of publicity that she does not want to exhibit her art. Her True Love is Danny James, come from Chicago to do research for a book meant to expose psychics as frauds, and to interview her about her parents. I found both Dee and Danny likable; they open up to each other step by step and are more and more fun to read about as they do so.
The second sister, Lizzie, is very unfocused at the beginning. She can’t hold down a proper job, and neither she nor her sisters seem to appreciate her housekeeping much. Because she longs for a normal life, she has permitted herself to become engaged to self-righteous prig. The man who turns up in her life is Elric (no second name given), a very powerful magician from Toledo, Spain. Elric is the ultimate über-hero, but he’s so smart, arrogant, urbane, sophisticated, sexy, incredibly handsome, all-knowing, and omnipotent that he bored me. I kept waiting for his dark and tortured side, but except that he is upset for about five minutes because True Love caught up with him after he escaped it so long (poor baby), there is no inner conflict for him. Nor is there any scope for development except that he falls in love and gets friendlier with Lizzie – big deal. Because he is so perfect, he changes everything in Lizzie’s life, including the interior décor of her bedroom without asking her, and it’s all for the better. She does come into her own, magic-wise, but all in all this relationship was too one-sided for my taste.
Mare and Christopher (Crash) were the couple who really made this book for me (besides Xan). At first I didn’t like Mare much: She is brash and a bit insensitive. Then we come to this gorgeous scene which shows her interacting with colleagues and customers at the video store. It’s stuffed with the most charming allusions to pop culture and had me wishing there was a video store like hers in my neighborhood. Or even (sigh) a bookstore. This makes her a stronger character than her sisters, because she alone of the three manages to carve out a space for herself and find something she both enjoys and is good at under adverse circumstances. Mare is funny, clever and eccentric, but we also slowly get to know about her insecurities, and her dealings with Crash reflect her inner conflicts in a believable manner. The two have a past – they were high school sweethearts – and maybe this is the reason why this relationship, which did not have to start at point zero, came across as more realistic and thus, for me, more heartwarming. Crash, a mechanic who runs his own business, is a great hero, a sexy mixture of alpha and beta traits. He listens to Mare but does not permit her to lead him by the nose, and he is confident enough not to be intimidated by her magic. In short, he’s adorable. Their love scenes manage to be magical, deeply romantic, hot and funny at the same time, my thumbs-up favorites in this novel (with the others being way hot, too).
The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes makes a delightful summer read. It’s funny, sexy, and fast-paced, and with the three different couples, every reader is bound to find a favorite. Not everything is utterly captivating, but it earns a hearty recommendation nonetheless.