I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of Patricia Rice’s books I’ve read so far, historical as well as paranormal. This latest re-issue from her Magic series is a good book, but for me it seems to lack that “something” I’ve found in her other stories lately. I’ve been wondering, since this is my first read of her earlier work, if perhaps it’s because she’s grown as an author over the ten years since this one was originally released. The one difference between the books from then and now that stands out for me is her voice. It’s much more lyrical today and gives books – especially her paranormals – more of an ethereal, sometimes haunting quality. And that’s what’s missing in Must Be Magic as I read it. But…
… don’t get me wrong here. Either way, then or now, Patricia Rice is an exceptional author. Her characters have layers of depth and her storylines are always intriguing. I still enjoyed Must Be Magic, despite that different voice I find in it. I love both the hero and heroine, each consumed with their own problems and mysteries, and then when they meet, they’re consumed with each other, all the while thinking they’d be better off without such complications. Ah, but the heart always has a different idea.
Lady Leila is a Malcolm – with no magic. She’s grown up the black sheep of the family, dark headed compared to all the blondes, and watching her mother, her siblings and other familial members use their magical powers day in and day out. But Leila, no matter how hard she tries, has never had even a twitch when it comes to magic. So she’s turning to developing perfumes and other fragrant items, because her sense of smell is beyond compare. To do all of that, she must plant roses and other flowers, carefully cultivate them to then prepare a personal scent for someone. However, there’s one small problem to begin her process. She needs an agronomist, and, according to her father, the best in all England is Dunstan Ives. Number one, Malcolms and Ives don’t mix well together – the Ives bring disaster to Malcolm doorsteps. Number two, this particular Ives is a suspect in his wife’s murder. Leila wants him anyway, and she’s going to have him, because after her latest crop has died, it’s apparent she does not have the green thumb necessary to grow anything.
Being a younger son with nothing to his name, Dunstan is tired of living off the graciousness of his older brother. He knows his scientific research will pan out if he can only find the land to grow his experimental turnips, which will help farmers feed the downtrodden in the future. So though he knows it’s something he shouldn’t do, Dunstan reluctantly accepts Lady Leila’s offer of the land he needs if he will also help grow her rose garden. Being around the woman, however, has him in a tizzy wanting her so, and he goes about his duties when she’s entertaining guests. That’s when he comes across Lily, an enchanting dark-haired servant who makes his blood boil. Lusting after two women is not what he signed up for. What he doesn’t realize until much later is that Leila and Lily are one and the same, which I found both fun and amazing at times that he didn’t put two and two together much sooner. But the fun between them when she’s Lily outweighs the disbelief he doesn’t recognize her without her powder and silk and satin.
I like that Leila is not shy when it comes to sex. She’s always seduced the men she’s wanted since becoming a widow, and now that she wants Dunstan, she goes about seducing him quite nicely. She even gets past his sense of honor of not wanting to ruin her reputation if she consorts with a murderer. When they do come together, watch out. Dunstan is one sensual, sexual man. Their lovemaking sizzles still when you’re two chapters beyond those scenes. Dunstan tries to stay away from Leila, but not once is he successful. He doesn’t want to have another illegitimate child; his fourteen-year-old son needs his father’s attention, as will another child who comes along. I love the scenes between father and son throughout the book, and when Dunstan finally realizes he just needs to be a father, his life comes together that much more for him. Thus, though he knows he has no right to Leila, and since he can’t protect her from himself, he does protects her from suitors who want her only for her money and land and also from her nephew who befriends such men. When she reveals she is pregnant, he knows he has to clear his name to be worthy of her and their child, so he heads to London.
There are number of other Ives and Malcolms running around these pages. I know eventually all got their own books, so it’s best to keep them straight here for the future. But they’re all quirky in their own way, willing to work to help out their loved ones with anything they want, only a few questions asked. There are a number of great scenes that will stay with you long after the reading is over. One is Dunstan and Leila standing their ground – literally – over the rose garden from Leila’s drunken guests, a good portion who are trying to woo her and who are also suspects, as far as Dunstan and Leila are concerned, in the murder. Both are magnificent as they try to protect the budding plants and each other, but it’s Dunstan who steals the show riding hell bent toward Leila to keep her safe.
All in all, this is a very good story. I just miss that lyricism that seems to have worked its way into Ms. Rice’s later works. That’s one of the biggest draws for me to read her books, along with her characters, and that’s definitely what saved the day in this story. Dunstan is larger than life and Leila knows her own mind, and they are quite perfect together.
Sourcebooks has very kindly offered up a copy of Must Be Magic to give away to one of our readers today (US and Canado only, please). So tell me, what’s that one magic moment you always wait for between a hero and heroine? A meaningful comment or response will put you in the running!
Lady Leila needs a scientist to help her grow the herbs and flowers for her potions-and Dunstan Ives is just the man. But soon their explosive mix of botany and biology creates a spark that is pure magic… and pure passion.
Read an excerpt.
Other books in this series: