A Christmas Bride

The Gifts of Christmas

Indiscreet

Irresistible

The Last Waltz

More Than a Mistress

No Man's Mistress

One Night for Love

A Regency Christmas Carol

The Secret Pearl

Slightly Dangerous

Silent Melody

Slightly Married

Slightly Scandalous

Slightly Sinful

Slightly Tempted

Slightly Tempted

Slightly Wicked

A Summer to Remember

The Temporary Wife

Thief of Dreams

Truly

Under the Mistletoe

Unforgiven

 
Simply Magic
by Mary Balogh
(Delacorte, $22.00, PG-13) ISBN 0-385-33823-3
****
Simply Magic is a nice showcase for Mary Baloghís beautiful prose, which is as languid and gentle as a slow-moving brook. When it comes to setting a tone for a story, sheís hard to top. The story, however, was fairly easy to put down, with a conflict that felt a bit forced.

Susannah Osbourne is a teacher at Miss Martinís School for Girls, and her story is the third of four. Susannah is on holiday for two weeks, visiting the estate of her dear friend Frances, who is now the Countess of Edgecombe. Here she meets Peter Edgeworth, Viscount Whitleaf, who is a handsome flirt. He seems to be a nice man, but Susannah dislikes his practiced charm, though she canít deny heís attractive. Peter takes one look at Susannah and feels instantly unsettled. Sheís a prim nobody, but seems so... alluring.

Peter pursues Susannah, she retreats, and yet they get to know one another. Finally their emotions overcome them one afternoon. Peter, with visions of freedom from his overbearing mother dancing in front of his eyes, impulsively asks Susannah to run away with him. She declines the position of courtesan, which he reluctantly agrees is for the best. Then Susannah disappears, back to Miss Martinís, and Peter is left to wonder what he might have lost.

Peter and Susannah meet again at the wedding breakfast of her friend Anne, another teacher at the school. Their paths continue to cross, and as they are reminded of what they once shared, each will have to make decisions to leave the past behind. For Peter, who became Viscount at the tender age of three, the idea of marrying an orphaned teacher who was once a charity student is nearly unthinkable. His upbringing as a cosseted, doted-upon only son was nearly smothering, and he only escaped an unfortunate engagement by crying off and moving to London when he was 21. His overbearing mother would still love nothing more than to run his life.

As Peter deals with his adult choices and responsibilities, Susannah has her own demons to battle. Her beloved father was a steward on a neighboring estate to the Whitleafs, and Peter and Susannah even met once as children. William Osbourneís suicide was tied to the Whitleaf family, and though Peter had nothing to do with it, she has many questions about what happened before her father died. Thus her reluctance to become emotionally entangled with Peter.

This is where the story felt a bit weak. Blaming the son for the sins of the father, or in this case, the mother, isnít a new conflict by any means, but in this case it felt somewhat forced. Susannah knows full well that Peter had nothing to do with her fatherís death. She knows heís a decent, kindhearted man. He clearly falls in love with her. Yet Susannah clings to the past for too long, and it drags out the end of the story.

For all that, this is a moving romance. Peterís character arc is perhaps the more interesting of the two, as he learns to stop drifting through his pleasant life and take determined, if not always pleasant, steps toward getting what he truly wants. Susannah is by no means unsympathetic. Readers will find her story touching as she overcomes her own fears and learns to trust in Peterís affections.

Simply Magic is as warm and pleasant as a spring day, a novel worth savoring if you are in the mood for a slower romantic read.

--Cathy Sova


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