Spellbound by Deirdre Savoy
(Arabesque/BET, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-58314-058-1
****
There’s something about those green-eyed Ludlow women that men find positively captivating. From matriarch Isabel Ludlow, whose family originally came from Salem, to Diana Ludlow Windsor to the cousins -- Jenny and Ariel, the legendary “curse of the Ludlow women” continues.

Men who have been bewitched by the Ludlow coven, claim it takes only six days to fall completely under their spell. Says one victim who has been in love with one for more than 50 years: “It’s funny, they think you’re the one that’s crazy. They don’t even realize what they’ve done to you. The spell works just the same.”

Spellbound is Deirdre Savoy’s first novel. It is the story of New York psychologist Ariel Windsor, the last of the Ludlow women. Ariel is a “confirmed bachelorette” who doesn’t quite believe in love, romance or marriage.

When the story begins, Ariel is on the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard where her cousin Jenny is getting married in six days. Ariel encounters Hollywood filmmaker Jarad Naughton aboard the ferry. He is inexplicably drawn to her and surprises them both when impulsively kisses her. She leaves the ferry before he learns her name.

Ariel is shocked when Jarad later turns up at her grandmother’s house. He is the son of old family friends and is representing his parents at the wedding. Jarad will be staying at the Ludlow home -- much to the delight of her cousin Jenny and Ariel’s chagrin. Jenny dares Ariel to set aside her cynicism -- “none of your usual analyzing, psychologizing and criticizing” -- and give Jarad a chance.

Meanwhile Jarad’s got his own problems. He’s being fed personal accounts of the Ludlow curse. The legend has been passed down by the males who love them, but the Ludlow women themselves are oblivious to it. And, although Jarad makes his living in the land of make-believe, he doesn’t believe he’ll fall madly in love in the space of six days. But he is attracted to Ariel. When he asks advice from other Ludlow victims, he is simply told “Run.”

Deirdre Savoy’s debut novel is like sparkling apple cider -- sweet, a little tart and effervescent. Savoy’s overall style, characterization, dialogue and humor spin a gentle web around her readers, enveloping them into the story. Her secondary characters offer support, humor and shading without getting in the way of the plot and the strong sexual tension between main characters. There is also a restrained secondary romance that doesn’t overshadow Ariel and Jarad’s story.

Harlem renaissance writer Dorothy West told stories about African Americans on Martha’s Vineyard. Like West, Deirdre Savoy’s Spellbound grew out of her experiences there.

I don’t want to leave readers with the impression that this is a paranormal or fantasy romance. It isn’t. Mention of the Ludlow curse appears only a handful of times throughout the novel’s 301 pages. Spellbound is not a variation of the Kim Novak-James Stewart romance, “Bell, Book and Candle.” Deirdre Savoy skillfully uses the Ludlow curse as a plot device to weave her own special magic. I liked it a lot.

Spellbound is a fresh, lighthearted romantic romp that has earned Deirdre Savoy a spot on my Emerging Authors List. I’m anxiously awaiting her next book.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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