Desert Isle Keeper
Uncertain Magic was first published in 1987 and is currently in its seventh printing. This was the first Laura Kinsale book I ever read so I didn’t know what to expect. I just pulled it off of Borders’ romance shelf because of its pretty cover. What a wonderful surprise to discover this author on a complete fluke such as a pretty book cover!
The story is set first in England, and then in Ireland at the end of the 18th century. Roddy, the heroine, is from a wealthy horse breeding family and the hero, Faelan, is an impoverished Irish earl. They meet at a horse race. Roddy has the ability to hear the thoughts of both animals and people, and tells Faelan one of his horses will not survive a race. Even though it’s going to cost him a lot of money, he believes her prediction and takes the horse out of the running. Oddly enough, Faelan is the first being whose thoughts Roddy cannot hear. Only Laura Kinsale could be as imaginative with this premise as she proves to be.
Ms Kinsale shows us exactly how much of a burden Roddy’s ability has been for her to bear – people are able to sense that she knows something about them and they don’t like it when she’s around, although they are not quite sure why they dislike her so. Most people have tended to distance themselves from her, so she is always isolated. Even her loving family, who know the truth of her power, are uncomfortable around her. Older generations of her family have also been cursed with this gift, and the women with the power usually end up totally alone. If a woman with the power tries marriage, her husband eventually leaves her because he is not able to live with someone who can hear his every thought.
Roddy has longed for a husband and children and, prior to meeting Faelan, has assumed she will never be able to have either. By marrying Faelan, Roddy will be able for the first time to lead a normal life, full of uncertainty, not knowing his thoughts, just like everyone else. However, Faelan has a terrible reputation and everyone tries to warn her off the marriage, including Faelan himself. Roddy insists on going forward with the marriage, and Faelan agrees since he desperately needs the enormous dowry Roddy brings.
As Faelan’s wife, Roddy finds herself having to conduct a relationship for the first time without having an inkling about what the other person is really thinking. She’s not used to having to evaluate someone on face value and has to decide whether or not to believe her husband at virtually every turn. While this has some comical results, it also makes it difficult for her to come to trust Faelan, especially since she can’t “hear” both sides of an issue involving him. The opposition comes in loud and clear, but there’s nothing but silence from within Faelan.
The action eventually moves to Ireland and Faelan’s decrepit estate. While Faelan and Roddy dedicate themselves to rebuilding, the villagers distrust them both. By reading their minds, Roddy discovers they are convinced he murdered his father.
Personally, I couldn’t imagine how this story could get much more imaginative than it already was. I was underestimating Kinsale. At this point in the book, she seamlessly introduces the involvement of the faerie world, where Roddy faces a disturbing truth about her power and her love for Faelan. Is it true that she could learn to read his thoughts? If she were able to, could she help save him from himself? If she were able to, would it doom her marriage as it did those of her ancestors? You’ll have to read the book to find out how Kinsale resolves things with an HEA ending.
This book is endlessly inventive and it is a Kinsale tour de force. If you loved her Flowers from the Storm or Shadow & the Star, you will love this book as well. The beautiful thing Kinsale has done in this book is to show exactly what it would be like to really have a power like Roddy’s, plus she wraps the story around the magical power of the faeries in Ireland, and gives us a beautiful romance too. The ending is pure magic.