When You Believe
by Jessica Inclan
(Kensington, $13.00, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-8080-8
***
When You Believe, the first book in the Magical Temptations series and it's something of a cross between Harry Potter and Charmed. Magic, romance and otherworldly forces come together to form an enjoyable story and entry into what one hopes is a world that has many other stories to tell.

Poet Miranda Stead is trying to outrun a couple street thugs when she literally stumbles into a very strange meeting complete with people in cloaks and disappearing doors. In the process of her arrival, she breaks her ankle. Her intrusion is not exactly welcome, and for a few nerve-wracking moments Miranda thinks she may have gone from the frying pan into the fire.

Unbeknownst to her, Miranda has discovered a gathering of the Croyant, or "believers" as they discuss their plan to defend themselves against the evil Quain. At first the group thinks Miranda is a spy but eventually determine she is only a Moyenne (or mundane). The mysterious and sexy Sariel Valasy, a telepathic healer who fixes her ankle, takes Miranda home. He is also supposed to wipe her memories of her encounter with the Croyant. But Sariel feels something is different about Miranda and he can't bring himself to erase her memories at first. The two have a few more encounters that eventually become intimate.

Miranda can't forget Sariel, and she is determined to learn more about him and his world. She discovers that she has certain abilities that let her travel through matter much as she did with Sariel. These abilities turn out to be something the Croyant need to defeat Quain and Miranda becomes involved in a strange and dangerous battle over the very fate of humanity.

Sariel and Miranda are both very appealing characters; not only for their chemistry but also the way both face adversity and unfamiliar events. Sariel has a bad romantic experience in his past. He is wounded for sure, but he doesn't let that stop him from exploring his feelings for Miranda. Miranda for her part reacts very realistically to the strange world she's been thrust into.

Besides the romantic leads, the reader is introduced to several other members of the Croyant group. Some, such as Sariel's brothers and spunky fire starter Sayblee, are more well-developed than others but all add dimension to the premise of the gathering forces against evil. The villains don't fare as well, coming off a little two dimensional.

The pacing drags a bit in places, as the author explains Sariel's background and the intricate world of the Croyant. This is not unusual given this is the first book in a planned trilogy. Also, much of the plot is safe and predictable (readers will see Miranda's secret coming from a mile away) in order to make way for the magical elements. Readers will need a little patience to keep going during the slow parts but will be rewarded at the end by a fine story.

--Anne Bulin


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