The Golden Feather

A Loving Spirit

Scandal in Venice

The Spanish Bride

One Touch of Magic
by Amanda McCabe
(Signet Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-20936-2
One Touch of Magic is a pleasant Regency romance with a very slight touch of the paranormal. The story opens with Sarah, Lady Iverson, at her husband’s funeral. The late Sir John Iverson was a noted archaeologist many years Sarah’s senior, and their brief years together were spent excavating a Viking village. The village is located on the estate of an elderly nobleman, and Sarah intends to continue her late husband’s work.

Uncertainty looms when the estate passes into the hands of Major Miles Rutledge. Miles has recently returned from the war and is shocked at the number of fine soldiers reduced to absolutely poverty, if not outright begging. He knows his late uncle’s estate has fields lying fallow. One of the best parts of the land is some sort of excavation site, where a good friend of his uncle’s has been mucking about, looking for Viking artifacts. Miles decides to close the site and put the land into cultivation. Not only that, it will provide jobs for some of the nation’s destitute soldiers.

Miles is surprised to find that the widowed Lady Iverson is no Society matron, but an intelligent young woman with seemingly little care for fashion and town activities. Sarah is directing the dig, assisted by Neville Hamilton, Sir John’s recently-married assistant (and a man who had hoped the dig would pass into his hands). Many of the workers have left, afraid of “Thora’s Curse”, a Viking legend, as well as several unexplained events. Sarah and her younger sister, Mary Ann, are afraid Miles will evict them, as he fully intends to do.

But…not quite yet. Miles can’t bring himself to close the excavation, not once he’s met Sarah. He and Sarah, unbeknownst to each other, are having similar dreams of a Viking maiden and a warrior. Then accidents start happening, and it looks as if Sarah may be in danger. Artifacts are smashed. A man is found murdered. Is Thora’s Curse more than a legend?

Sarah is a likable character, with her emphasis on the excavation and her dislike of fashion and frippery. Mary Ann, who fancied herself in love with Neville before he married, is an interesting side character who is given a bit more depth than might be expected. Her talent for drawing provides a valuable asset to the dig. Miles, decent and honorable, is a suitable match for Sarah as he battles with his desire to help ex-soldiers and his increasing attraction to Sarah.

The obvious solution to the problem of the Viking village sitting on good cropland leaps out at the reader, yet the characters don’t figure it out until the end of the book. Meanwhile, Miles and Sarah are pleasantly warm toward each other. He’s handsome, kindhearted, and a man of integrity. She’s pretty, kindhearted, and devoted to the excavation. Neither appear to have any flaws, and ultimately, they are unmemorable.

The villain won’t be too hard to spot, as big clues are dropped for the reader. Things wrap up neatly, with one quibble - a murder is apparently going to be swept under the rug, with no repercussions for the culprit, simply based on the culprit’s identity. This didn’t sit well. And the dreams and legend sub-plot don’t really go anywhere, merely popping up at the end to force resolution. It was pretty much throwaway stuff.

One Touch of Magic is a standard-issue Regency that’s a light, entertaining read, but it may not be remembered for very long.

--Cathy Sova

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