|Patricia Rice: The Trouble With Magic|
Signet (Paperback), ISBN 0-451-20947-8
The women of the Malcolm family all possess unique gifts. One sees auras. Another can smell emotions. Felicity sees things through the vibrations that items give off. But the visions these vibrations cause exhaust Felicity and force her to shun all human touch.
Rather than continue to live this way, Felicity decides to renounce her power entirely. Unbeknownst to her family, Felicity and her sister Christina set off for Edinburgh to track down an old family journal that contains a formula to rid her of her gift.
Along they way, they run into Ewen Ives, their brother-in-law, for whom Felicity nurtures a soft spot. Ewen seeks some papers that might clear him of a huge debt.
Ewen jointly owns a mine and a canal lock system to transport the coal to major shipping channels. An inventor and naturally curious about the workings of gadgets, Ewen designed the canal locks himself. But something caused them to give way, flooding many a farmer out of home and land. He generously offered to pay for rebuilding the destroyed homesteads, which nearly bankrupts him. But he can't shake the suspicion that his design wasn't at fault.
Ewen decides to accompany the women and protect them. However, a mishap leaves Christina bed-ridden. Felicity and Ewen continue the hunt for the journal and papers on their own. Attraction grows between the pair, but they find themselves in an unexpected predicament. Caught in a minor indiscretion, Ewen declares the pair married. Then they learn that Scottish law recognizes such declarations as binding.
A bit of a rake, Ewen believes himself unfit to be a good husband to the delicate Felicity. This adds another component to their quest -- the search for an annulment. To expedite things -- and to help Ewen, who worked so hard to help her with her magic -- Felicity uses her gift and inadvertently puts her life in danger. Then Felicity's father finds out about the marriage, putting Ewen in danger as well.
Patricia Rice's characters come across as solid and three-dimensional. The use of magic in the tale doesn't seem out of place. To the sisters, their abilities simply exist and they use them easily (aside from Felicity's fragility). The other characters find the abilities a bit odd, but Rice doesn't make the abilities too outlandish to believe. Although a well-written story that moves along at a good pace, this book just fell a bit flat.
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