My Favorite Witch

Scoundrel in Disguise

An Undeniable Rogue

An Unmistakable Rogue

Naked Dragon
by Annette Blair
(Berkley, $7.99, R)  ISBN 978-0-425-23200-2
Though she shows great potential with her humor, I have a feeling I won't be the only reader nearly bored to tears by Annette Blair's Naked Dragon, a novel in her Works Like Magick series. Works Like Magic is an employment agency based out of Salem, Massachusetts, which not surprisingly (if slightly cliched) is a hotbed of paranormal activity.  When her cousin calls desperate for an able handyman willing to work for room and board, owner Vivica Quinlan sends to McKenna a foreigner named Bastian Dragonelli, who for all intents and purposes is more brawn than brain.

McKenna has no way of knowing, of course, that Bastian is more foreign than she could have ever expected.  Although McKenna's ancestress as well as her cousin Vivica had the magickal blood running through their veins, even she cannot believe that Bastian is a dragon. From the scanty history provided, readers will deduce that Bastian's race of dragons live in a different dimension, where they were exiled by an angry goddess. The goddess of hope managed to find a loophole with her good magic, and now she's helping the dragons-turned-back-to-men through to earth.  astian is the trial run, and if he does not find and woo his heart mate as well as finding the "crowned dragon," the remainder of his compatriots will never have a chance.

McKenna herself is in a heap of trouble of a more mundane sort: the family homestead, which had been mortgaged to pay medical bills, is quickly headed toward foreclosure.  For several generations, the dream has been to turn it into a bed and breakfast.  The problems are numerous; for one, the house is crumbling around McKenna's ears, and for another, her handyman is stuck in a wheelchair.  The replacement — Bastian —is so literal-minded that he can't even comprehend basic colloquialisms.  If she doesn't turn a profit in under two months, two hundred years of McKenna family heritage will be bulldozed away when a vulture of a contractor levels the homestead to build condos on her lakefront property.

Bastian discovers quickly and graphically that McKenna is his heart mate.  McKenna, a woman with a great deal of shyness physically though mentally quick-witted dances around their attraction until she just folds, just as she folds up her objections when he tells her he's a dragon.  Though Bastian helps McKenna physically around her home and emotionally by putting her in touch with the ghosts of her ancestors, their relationship never develops enough for readers to have a vested interest.  And, though the book's phrasing is often like something out of erotica and includes a lot of vivid imagery about the characters' various body parts, there is very little physical or emotional interaction for the first two hundred pages. 

Characters often speak in ways that are more like prose and less like dialogue, while the plotline stutters and then falls on its face.  Bastian's arch nemesis Killian makes very few and impotent appearances, and the work on McKenna's house is not interesting enough to make up for the significant lack of action.  There is a great deal of humor, primarily in the dialogue, and when they aren't lame, the conversations between McKenna and her friends will give you a chuckle. 

Bastian's cluelessness about the modern world gets old quickly, but people with a yen for tales of destiny may find the romance titillating.  This reader, however, prefers some build-up, which you won't find in Naked Dragon.  Hopefully, as the series continues, Blair will play up the comedy angle more and use it as a tool for rounding out her characters instead of focusing so strongly on one trait in particular for each of them (for instance, McKenna: insecure; Bastian: charmingly dumb; McKenna's friend Lizzy: distracting herself mentally from her own worries by interfering with other people's lives).

--Sarrah Knight

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