Author: Patricia Rice
Release Date: June 1, 2012 (reprint)
Magic Series #2
Genre: Historical Romance, magic
Format(s): Paperback (304 pgs), e-book
Book Source: Publisher
About the book:
Lady Leila Staines is the dark-haired Malcolm, the one who has yet to discover her magical gift. But she’s convinced that Dunstan Ives, the brooding master cultivator, can arrange a flower garden that will help her distill fragrances. Ives, accused of killing his wife, shuns decadent society and has no use for another beautiful woman—except that Leila seems to have bewitched him.
What I’m talking about:
Lady Leila Staines is widow and a Malcolm. She is cousin of Ninian, who was heroine in the first book, Merely Magic. Dunstan Ives is the brother of Drogo Earl of Ives, hero from first book. Although this is the second book in the series, it most definitely can be read as a stand alone.
Leila has questioned her “Malcolmness” her entire life… She has dark hair, while all other Malcolm females are blonde. She doesn’t seem to have any talents (magics), but she has an acute sense of smell. Her life dream is to create her own perfumes, but her late husband refused to support her. Now that he is gone, she has hired Dunstan, the best agronomist in England, to get her flowers to grow.
Dunstan has a black cloud above his head. His high-society (adulteress) wife, Celia, was murdered and most think Dunstan is responsible. He has some interest in clearing his name for the sake of his son, but he is a little worried he may be guilty. He takes the job with Leila so he can make enough money to hire an investigator.
Must Be Magic opens strong and jumps right into the plot. I enjoyed the determination in Leila from the get go – she wants so badly to have her own talents, and she knows in her heart that she needs the roses to make it happen. She is accustomed to the upper class lifestyle, but prefers to hide among her flowers without the make up, powdered wigs and fancy clothing.
In order for Dunstan and Leila to get to know one another, Ms. Rice hides Lady Leila in plain sight – know one recognizes her without the dressings of formality. This allows Dunstan and Leila (aka Lily) to open up and be themselves because he isn’t aware the woman whose company he enjoys is the Lady. And the author allows the charade to continue for just the right amount of time, stopping it before it would have been difficult or painful for the truth to come out. Although there were times I was a bit annoyed with Dunstan because he would wonder how Lily and Leila have the same eyes without even considering they are the same person!
The story is filled with wonderful dialogue and scenes. One of my favorites is when Lily/Leila and Dunstan come together for the first time. It was in a heated spring and the steam coming off the pages was extremely sensual. Soon after, Dunstan learns the truth of who Lily is and confronts her. Although he gives her a hard time about misleading him, he cannot stop himself from wanting her. He tries his best to put up a wall, but their mutual desire is palpable. The words left me aching for Dunstan!
The pair work over the course of the book at moving beyond their individual pasts and backgrounds. Together they make one another a better person. The pace set for their unorthodox “courtship” and how they move through the “getting to know you” phase is a joy to read. The book embodies romance on many levels.
Once Dunstan accepts that maybe he a Leila can have some sort of future (and that he does care for her deeply), he understands why he must find out the truth and clear his name. (I will note, the repetition of “I must clear my name” from Dunstan at this point became tiresome after a while – I was thinking to myself “I know already… so get on with it!”) There are a handful of suspects introduced along the way, and I for one wasn’t really certain who did what! The scenes become more intense as the end drew near and the intensity ratcheted up the suspense a few notches.
Over all, Must Be Magic is a lovely romantic tale wrapped around a murder mystery. I adore that Dunstan acknowledges Leila’s gifts rather than makes excuses for them. They each embrace the uniqueness of the other, and together they are a formidable pair. They are equals from the beginning, and although they don’t always listen to each other during the book, there is always respect for differences and of talents. I think this is what made this one so enjoyable.
The story’s flow was seamless. Never a stall. The mystery of who murdered Dunstan’s wife, Celia, held my interest and provided a focal point, but wasn’t overbearing. Simply delightful!
Enjoyed – strongly recommend (A-)
Reviews in the Series: