Tour’s Books Blog

December 10, 2009

Book Review: Casting Spells by Barbara Bretton

  • Title: Casting Spells
  • Author: Barbara Bretton
  • Type: Chick-lit Paranormal Romance
  • Genre: Love conquers all
  • Sub-genre:  Witches, wizards, vamps
  • My Grade: C+  (3.2*)
  • Rating: G
  • Length and price: Full novel – about 90,000 words for $10.08, but remainders available
  • FTC Disclaimer: Book purchased from online bookseller
  • Where Available: Everywhere books are sold

The light contemporary paranormal romance has some elements of a cozy mystery, but hasn’t got enough mystery to be called one.  Chloe Hobbs is the very human and unmagical daughter of a long line of witches who have acted as guardians of the small and decidedly magical town of Sugar Maple, Vermont.  Chloe is holding one of her many knitting classes that have become famous among the knitting community as is her yarn shop.  As she’s teaching some visitors and two townswomen some knitting tricks, a stunningly beautiful woman comes to the window.  At first she appears naked, but then Chloe realizes she’s wearing an expensive and very thin dress.  Suzanne Markham, despite her beauty, seems strangely sad and Chloe relents and sells her a shawl that she has for display only.  Next morning life in the village will change forever when the woman is found drowned in a local pond, apparently the victim of a tragic skating accident.

Sugar Maple, Vermont is a safe haven for all things magical.  Witches, wizards, werewolves, vampire families, Fae, ghosts and the like.  The first witch in Chloe’s line cast a protective spell over the entire town so visitors would never notice all the odd happenings around them.  For the last 24 years the spell has been slowly eroding, starting when Chloe’s mother and father were killed in a car crash.  Chloe father was an ordinary human male.  Unfortunately, Chloe seems to take after him and hasn’t a shred of magic, so she can’t renew the protective spell.  The death of Suzanne is the first ever in the village.  People here ‘pass over’ quite literally to another existence.  The death triggers a huge problem.  First, Suzanne was an outsider, so her death is real and must be reported.  Once they do that, Sugar Maple comes onto the state’s radar and their lack of a police force and a town clerk for vital statistics – like birth, death and marriage certificates – especially death certificates.  Other than voting and paying taxes, it’s like they don’t exist.  The signs of the protective spell’s weakening rapidly and the risk having a cop in town presents to all the magical inhabitants, sends a town meeting into a battle between Chloe and Isadora, a powerful Fae that covets the Book of Spells that Cloe’s ancestor Aerynn.  One of Isaroda’s twin sons, Gunnar, gets between her and Chloe and protects her from Isadora, at great personal expense.

Luke MacKenzie is a Boston detective who wants to be a small town police chief.  He’s tired of the city and he’s been looking for awhile.  The job in Sugar Maple might only be temporary, and it means he has to quit the force, but it’s the chance he wants.  Luke’s arrival accelerates things in Sugar Maple.  He has an immediate attraction to the town’s nominal mayor, Chloe.  There are sparks – literal sparks and when he takes her to a ‘business’ dinner that night, there’s a floating brandy glass.  As Luke drives her home, his truck spins out on black ice, narrowly missing the same fate as her parents.  Midge, the vampire undertaker who finds them, claims the road is ‘as dry as a lizard’.  Luke was born and raised on Cape Anne, in the town next to Salem.  He knows there’s more than meets the eye, but this place is strange.  And why did Chloe tackle him and kiss the stuffing out of him when they got to her house?  And what’s with all those sparkles when they touch? And just what is the knitting maven mayor hiding?

Chloe managed to keep Luke from seeing Isadora and Dane, Gunnar’s evil twin brother, wrecking her house as they searched for the Book of Spells.  Isadora desperately wants the book so she can drag Sugar Maple beyond the mist and rule it with her powers.  Only Aerynn’s spell and the fact the Gunnar refuses to have anything to do with his mother’s plans is stopping her.  Now Chloe must deal with what’s happening to her every time she gets near Luke, the dangerous Isadora, and a state official who wants the birth and death certificates – NOW!

Luke, a childhood friend and one time boyfriend of the late Suzanne, wants to know what the hell is going on in this strange town.  And he finds he really wants the mayor.  Chloe slowly realizes that she might be more like her mother than she ever knew.  Even though Gunnar has always loved her, the spark has never been there for her.  He’s her best friend, but that’s it.  Luke is a whole different thing.  He sets off fireworks.  And he’s making her magic bloom – finally.  Bet everyone, her friends, other townies, even Sorcha, the woman who raised her, keep reminding her it just isn’t possible to have humans in Sugar Maple.  Some even agree with Isadora that it’s time to move beyond the mist.  But love can’t be told what to do.  Both Luke and Chloe can’t pretend the attraction isn’t there or that it isn’t real.  The denouement is all about what love, even twisted love, can do to anyone, Fae and human.

While Casting Spells was an easy, light pleasantly entertaining read, it lacks depth.  ETA: Ms Bretton is constantly switching the point of view first person narrative between Chloe and Luke.  It was AMAZINGLY annoying and confusing.     The characters are superficially drawn and the plot, though moving quickly, has little substance.  Like most chick-lit books, the emotions are shallow rather than deep and meaningful.  The plot is OK, but no surprises along the way, nor much excitement.  I felt like I was just skating over the surface of the story.  Aside from Luke, there is no strong male presence other than Gunnar.  Even Chloe’s friends barely register as individuals.  Despite its length, you can knock the book off in a couple of hours.   Casting Spells is harmless fluff entertainment, not worth the price of a trade paperback, but if you buy a remainder or get it from the library or through book swapping, it’s an enjoyable couple of hours.

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