The Faun's Folly

The Haunting of Henrietta

Marigold's Marriages

Shades of the Past

Summers Secret

 
The Magic Jack-o-Lantern
by Sandra Heath
(Signet, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-451-19840-9
**
A different sort of reader may well adore The Magic Jack-o-Lantern. If you like tongue-in-cheek humor, give it a try. This reader felt rather bludgeoned by it, however, and in the end I felt like Iíd spent several hours reading a book that was part Regency and part comic book.

Heiress Polly Peach has a small creature called a brownie living in her house, as most people do (though they donít know it). Named Bodkin, heís usually tractable but at the moment is quite disgruntled. It seems that Bodkinís ladylove, another brownie named Nutmeg, has mysteriously disappeared from the house across the street. Bodkin suspects foul play -- that sheís been taken away to Bath against her will to serve in enslavement. And when a brownie is unhappy, he turns into a boggart-brownie, which is an unpleasant, mischief-making version. Bodkin packs his things, including a pumpkin heís been growing especially for Halloween, and sets out to find Nutmeg and create a little mayhem along the way. Polly, concerned, decides to follow him to Bath.

Polly first attempts to find her miserly uncle, Hordwell Horditall, who is staying with the lecherous Lord Beddem. But the door to Lord Beddemís house is opened by the pompous and wealthy Sir Dominic Fortune, who might be interested in Polly, except heís infatuated with his scheming mistress, Lady Georgina Mersenrie, who has just thrown him over for the better-titled Sir Algernon Lofty, Marquess of Hightower, future Duke of Grandcastle. Dominic is comforted by his manly soldier buddy, Harry Dashington. And the petulant and unhappy Bodkin does indeed create mayhem, usually in a public place such as the famed Pump Room or a ball.

Isnít it just too cute? Donít you just want to giggle?

No.

Dominic, for all that heís supposedly wealthy and astute, is certainly thickheaded when it comes to dealing with his mistress. He pines and pants after her, then after taking her to bed, kisses Polly senseless the very next day. Polly is being pursued by Lord Beddem who wants her money and is conveniently the brother of Lady Georgina Mersenrie, allowing them ample time to scheme together. Polly is intelligent enough (except when it comes to being kissed by Dominic) so it wasnít too heard to root for her. And the descriptions of Bath and its society were interesting, particularly the Pump Room.

As an amusing Regency read, though, The Magic Jack-o-Lantern felt overdone and forced. I canít recommend it, but perhaps it will strike your funnybone in a better place.

--Cathy Sova


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