The Changeling Bride

Bewitching the Baron by Lisa Cach
(Love Spell, $5.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52368-X
Lisa Cach's sophomore effort is an entertaining story of a gifted healer who is suspected of being a witch, and the man who becomes bewitched by her beauty and courage. And if a touching romance were not enough, when was the last time you read a story featuring a talking raven?

Nathaniel Warrington, the new Baron Ravenall, comes to the village of Greyfriars and Raven Hall to inspect his new home. He's accompanied by his whining, supercilious friend Paul, a man nursing an injury to his backside courtesy of a deceived husband Nathaniel seeks out the village healer to attend to his friend, and is nonplussed to find a lovely young woman, rather than the old hag he was expecting.

Valerian Bright is just as alarmed by her reaction to the dark-haired stranger who so stiffly asks for her help. No doubt he's as uppity as his late uncle was kind, judging from his mannerisms toward her. That Oscar, her pet raven, insists on screaming "Eee-diot!" at Nathaniel every time he's near doesn't make things easier. If she falls for Nathaniel, he'll break her heart. It's the way of the nobility, isn't it?

Times aren't easy for Valerian and her Aunt Theresa, a woman who has taught Valerian everything she knows of the healing arts. Valerian has a special gift, though. If she makes it known, the villagers will be even more suspicious of her than they already are, and some of them are already convinced that she's a witch. When some of them act on their suspicions and Valerian is injured, Nathaniel can no longer deny his feelings for her. They will have an uphill battle in front of them, what with the malicious Paul, Nathaniel's own stiff-rumped family, and Valerian's belief that no man could love her once the truth about her abilities is known. Plus, her parentage is a shadowy.

Lisa Cach is fast showing herself to be an author of ingenuity when it comes to plotting and characters. Bewitching the Baron offers two likable, flawed people who are absolutely right for one another but sure take the hard road in discovering it. Valerian was delightful; aware that an affair with Nathaniel is likely to leave her heartbroken, she forges ahead anyway. Nathaniel can hardly believe his heart. To hell with his family -- Valerian is the one for him, but how can he convince her? It's nice to see a hero thwarted at every turn.

As for the sexual tension, these two have it in spades.

The secondary characters, particularly Oscar the bird, rounded out the story in fine fashion. The only impatience I felt was with Nathaniel's interaction with his "friend, Paul. Readers will need to judge this for themselves. But the story dashes along, carrying the reader with it. Even the ending is a bit of a surprise, and certainly in keeping with the characters of the two leads.

Bewitching the Baron is a worthy follow-up to Lisa Cach's debut book, The Changeling Bride. It's reassuring to know that fresh talent like this is being allowed to develop. Readers may well find themselves to be the ones bewitched.

--Cathy Sova

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