Enchanting the Lady
by Kathryne Kennedy
(LoveSpell, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52750-2
****
Kathryne Kennedy introduces an intriguing new alternate world in Enchanting the Lady, a Victorian England in which oneís rank as a noble depends on the degree of magic one possesses. Prince Albert holds the most powerful magic in the land, and would-be nobles must pass certain magical tests in order to assume their titles. Sir Terence Blackwell, one of the Princeís most trusted and powerful protectors, is a shapeshifter who is immune to magic, but can sense it being used.

Felicity Seymour is heiress to a dukedom who possesses little magical power. In fact, she seems to be virtually invisible to people and is often ignored as though she isnít there. An orphan, Felicity has been raised by an aunt and uncle. When her time comes to be tested in front of the Prince, sheís a failure. Terence, however, senses dark magic on Felicity - the same dark magic that killed his brother. Is she the perpetrator or the pawn?

Terence, who sees Felicity perfectly clearly, decides that the best way to find the source of the magic - which dates back to Merlin and is contained in a set of missing relic stones - is to court Felicity and stay close to her. Felicity is nonplussed to have a handsome baronet paying attention to her, and Terence is astonished to find himself falling for the lovely lavender-eyed girl that everyone else doesnít seem to notice. Add to it her acceptance and delight in his shifted form - a lion - and the stage is set for a sparkling romance between two people who are regarded as misfits by the rest of Society.

Kathryne Kennedy does a spectacular job of pulling us right into her alternate universe. Itís a huge credit to her skills that this Victorian London felt nearly as familiar as the one presented in a traditional historical romance. She wisely keeps most of the atmosphere the same, with the effect that the magical aspect felt quite natural. Bertie wielding magical powers? Sure, why not? A shapeshifting lion guarding the king? Makes perfect sense.

My only quibble with the story is that, in order to hide the villainís identity, Felicity has to act rather dense for most of the book. The clues are there by the third chapter, and itís not hard to figure out whatís going on, but Felicity wanders through the book oblivious to whatís right in front of her nose.

Fortunately, the question of who is giving her nightmares and why she didnít inherit the magic of her powerful parents occupies a relatively small amount of page space, and the romance is given plenty of room to develop. Ms. Kennedy knows her way around a love scene. Things heat up quite nicely, and readers who like a touch of spice in their stories wonít be disappointed. Terence is a wonderful hero: a bit guarded, having been on the fringes of Society for so long, but smart enough to realize what heís found in Felicity and determined to protect whatís his. And protect her he does, in several inventive ways.

Enchanting the Lady is the type of paranormal romance that really moves outside the box. Kathryne Kennedy gives readers a marvelous new world in which to wander, and as this is the first of a planned series, those who enjoy it can look forward to more. Books this fine deserve a wide audience, and I hope Ms. Kennedy gets it.

--Cathy Sova


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