Utterly Charming

 
Thoroughly Kissed by Kristine Grayson
(Zebra, $6.50, G) ISBN 0-8217-6786-0
****
Leave your rational self at the door and enter into Kristine Graysonís fantasy world and I promise you that youíll have a lovely time. Graysonís first book, Utterly Charming, used the Sleeping Beauty myth with a twist. Beauty wasnít a princess but rather a young woman with magical powers who was put into her millennium long trance by her jealous mentor. She wasnít awakened by a princely kiss in a forest bower but rather came back to life in the back of a VW van. And the mage whose kiss had sent her into her trance and who had protected her all those centuries turned out not to be her true love after all!

Thoroughly Kissed takes up Sleeping Beautyís story ten years after that startling wake up call. In the intervening years, Emma Lost (as she calls herself) has adjusted to the modern world and made a life for herself. She has done the logical thing and become a scholar of the early, early middle ages, Ph.D. and all. What could make more sense than writing about the world one once experienced? Indeed, her book on this mysterious era is so full of brilliant insights that it has become a best-seller (donít all we historians wish!) and has gotten her a position in the History Department at the University of Wisconsin.

Emma is pretty darn content with her life. If she avoids emotional relationships because sheís afraid of what another kiss will do to her, she has her cat, her lovely Frank Lloyd Wright house (updated so it isnít as uncomfortable as most Wright houses are) and a growing reputation as a popular teacher. But then, her life is threatened on two sides.

First a new chairman arrives on the scene. Michael Found, like all academics, is suspicious of anyone who writes a book that people actually want to read. Moreover, he thinks Emma has fudged her footnotes. Just where in the very fragmentary sources from the tenth century is there proof for her interpretation of the age, he asks. Emmaís hope of getting tenure - that dream of all assistant professors - seems suddenly shaky.

But the challenge to her scholarship by the admittedly handsome Dr. Found is the least of Emmaís problems. The real kicker is that her magic has arrived! You see, women witches arenít supposed to get their magic until menopause so Emma figured she had at least another decade to live a normal life before she has to learn how to control her magic. But that thousand year sleep threw things off and suddenly, what she thinks is what she gets - like a cat who becomes as big as a lion or a quick trip back to the tenth century or furniture that disappears and reappears.

Emma needs to begin her training immediately but she has to travel to Seattle to her mentor. But how to get there? She doesnít dare fly or take a train; who knows what her thoughts will do. And if sheís to drive, sheís going to need company. But who? Well, thanks to the intervention of another wizard, Michael is convinced to go along. Thus begins their improbable journey to true love.

The journey from Madison to Seattle is filled with magical moments and dangers as other witches try to steal Emmaís magic. As they travel together, Michael and Emma discover each other.

Michael accepts Emmaís magical powers pretty readily; after all, if you find yourself in a tenth century village or watch your office suddenly become denuded of furniture or encounter a huge cat, itís pretty easy for even the most skeptical of individuals to believe that something out of the ordinary is occurring. He also comes to appreciate the strength of character and determination that this beautiful woman has shown in adapting to the modern world. For her part, Emma comes to appreciate Michaelís kindness, his intelligence, and his good looks. But dare she kiss him? And can a nearly immortal witch find happiness with a mortal?

Thoroughly Kissed is a thoroughly charming fairy tale. So suspend disbelief and enjoy. This book is fun!

--Jean Mason


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