Beyond Forever

Holiday Inn

MacLaren's Bride

Scoundrel

Shadow of the Storm

 
MacKenzie’s Magic by Debra Dier
(Leisure, $5.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-8439-4866-3
***
Jane Eveleigh has been coerced into marrying a man she despises, Dominic Stanbridge, the Marquess of Lancaster. She has good reason to loath the man.

It is rumored his former mistresses could fill St. Paul’s Cathedral. There are whispers that some of these affairs ended in suicide and, possibly, even murder. There is no question the man is egotistical in the extreme, has no respect for women and is accustomed to manipulating any situation to his advantage. The only puzzle is why he chose Jane for his Marchioness?

Jane made her debut into society five years earlier, but was often overlooked when surrounded by her more beautiful sisters. While attending a ball, Jane bumps into Lancaster in the crowded ballroom and he asks her to dance. When Jane refuses, the pursuit begins.

Lancaster is intrigued that a woman would actually refuse him anything. When Jane continues to do so, he uses blackmail to force her to marry. It is obvious Lancaster lives for a challenge, something Jane should have recognized. After their wedding, when Jane is reluctant to come to his bed, Lancaster issues her a challenge. If he cannot make her come to him willingly within six months, he will agree to an annulment. Since no woman has been known to resist him, Lancaster is certain of eventual victory.

Jane, on the other hand, is certain she will persevere. No matter how handsome Lancaster may be, there is no beauty within and she finds him easy to resist. Until the accident.

Lancaster and Jane are arguing on the terrace when Jane notices a heavy urn about to topple from the balcony, directly above Lancaster. She pushes him from its path and knocks him to the ground, causing him to hit his head on the stone terrace. Although bleeding, he appears all right. Until the next morning.

When Lancaster awakes, he declares he is Colin MacKenzie, the third Earl of Kintair. When Jane proves his is the body of Dominic Stanbridge and it is 1889, not 1562 as Colin believes, he decides she is a witch who has caused him to swap bodies with Lancaster.

Jane doesn’t know what to believe. Just the previous evening, Lancaster vows to change her mind about him, now he claims to be a Scottish Laird. A kind, loving and very appealing Scottish Laird. Could Lancaster’s head injury cause such an abrupt change in personality? Or was this part of an elaborate plan to lure Jane into his bed? Or, even more unlikely, is Colin exactly what he claims...a man from 1562 who wakes to find himself in another’s body?

MacKenzie’s Magic starts out with such promise. The author does an exceptional job of painting the Marquess of Lancaster as a truly despicable cad. It is entirely believable that he would create such an elaborate ruse to lure Jane to his bed in order to win their challenge.

Colin, on the other hand, makes a very sympathetic hero. A perfect match for Jane, she is forced to resist him in case he is really Lancaster, pretending to be everything Jane could want in a partner.

While reading the book I was tugged back and forth. One minute believing Colin’s claims were real, the next certain it all was an intricate plot conceived by Lancaster’s clever mind. Clues are dropped along the way, keeping me guessing right to the end.

In addition to the promising start, things become even more interesting during the final third of the book when Jane and Lancaster travel to Kintair. Unfortunately, the middle section of the book drags, with Jane repeatedly insisting she’s not a witch and Colin repeatedly insisting he’s not Lancaster and both analyzing their feelings in detail, prompting an abrupt halt to the action. Much could have been cut here to make a tighter plot.

While the guessing game of Lancaster’s identity is enjoyable, the tedious center portion of the book makes it difficult to give MacKenzie’s Magic a wholehearted recommendation.

--Karen Lynch


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