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Portrait of Dreams

Enchanted by Victoria Malvey
(Sonnet, $6.50, PG ) ISBN 0-671-02071-4
Much of Enchanted is enchanting, but it is also a story without the grit it needs to be really good. I've said before that a book's greatest strength can also be its greatest weakness. Enchanted 's greatest strength is its lighthearted humor, but it is also the weakness of this story.

For most of her nineteen years, Amelia Ralston, has adored her childhood playmate and good friend, Lord Crispin Merrick. Raising her four beloved sisters and caring for her invalid father never seemed like a burden to Amie, even though money was scarce. Amie spent much of her time dreaming about Cris and about marrying him one day.

When Cris comes back home ready to assist Amie with her family's problems, she misinterprets his interest as stemming from love, not friendship. Thinking Cris wants marriage, she lets him know that her answer would be yes. Amie is humiliated when, instead of the marriage offer she was expecting, Cris offers to be her guardian.

Because his parents were obsessed with each other and barely paid him any heed, Cris doesn't think love is a very desirable commodity. He does, however, think that he and Amie would make a good match - now that Amie has put the thought into his mind. Cris offers marriage but Amie refuses to settle for a marriage that doesn't include love.

After her father dies, Amie gets a new guardian, a merchant friend of her father, who has pots of money and a burning ambition to marry each of the beautiful Ralston girls to the wealthiest, most titled men in England. Determined to forget about Cris, Amie is anxious to go to London and find true love for herself and her sisters.

But London has a dark side, and there are "dark lords" who get their thrills from abducting and using young ladies for their pleasure. These men have a bone to pick with Cris and they believe the best way to exact their revenge is to abduct the woman Crispin Merrick wants.

There's a good deal to like about Enchanted; I had no difficulty in continuing to turn the pages. The story moves along nicely and the characters are warm and charming.

However, for most of the book the female characters seem to have all the intelligence while the men are rather less gifted in logic and simple reasoning. Actually, I have no quibble with this women-as-the-superior-gender line of thought; it's handled in a nice light, humorous fashion.

Unfortunately, it carries over and effects the portrayal of the male villains. Simply put, they seem too stupid and too absurd to be truly dastardly; yet these men are murderers and rapists. They are the worst kind of pond scum, but it is almost impossible to take them seriously.

I adore books that contain the kind of lighthearted humor found in Enchanted. However, it is incongruous to employ such serious themes as rape and murder in a book that is determined to be simple, light fare. In addition, my sense of justice was not appeased by the resolution involving these thoroughly despicable dark lords.

--Judith Flavell

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