Title: Dangerous Magic
Author: Alix Rickloff
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: October 31, 2011
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
It’s not often that I find a historical romance with a heroine not from the aristocracy, so it was a real pleasure to read Alix Rickloff’s Dangerous Magic, which features Gwenyth Killigrew, a healer with the Sight. I hadn’t read any of Ms. Rickloff’s work before, but I very much enjoyed this book. While I had a few minor complaints about Dangerous Magic, overall I felt this was a strong novel with intriguing characters.
When infamous smuggler Captain Rafe Fleming shows up injured at her doorstep, Gwenyth can’t turn him away. Her calling as a healer wouldn’t allow her to refuse him, but she’s also attracted to the injured man. She’s the last of a long line of women who have the sight, and soon she’ll need to have a daughter whom she can train in the healing arts. Gwyneth is planning on finding a father with whom she’ll conceive her child, then raise her daughter on her own as the other women in her family have done. Rafe Fleming seems like the perfect candidate to father her child.
Rafe Fleming has worked for nearly a decade as a smuggler ever since he was thrown out of the Royal Navy. Now that Rafe’s earned his fortune, he plans on returning to the family fold and finding a respectable wife. When Gwenyth proposes that he father her child, Rafe sees the perfect opportunity to use her ability with the Sight to screen potential wives. He suggests that she pose as his fiancée to aid him with his search and then return to her life on the Cornwall coast. But both their plans begin to unravel when their fake engagement throws the two together more than they’d like. When their attraction to one another becomes more than merely physical, can the two lovers from such different backgrounds find a future together?
I was pleased by this novel’s readability. I’ve seen a few other reviews that complain about the choppiness of Ms. Rickloff’s writing, but truthfully I enjoyed the book, and it drew me in really quickly. I had absolutely no expectations before reading it and made the mistake of starting it late at night, thinking I’d read a few chapters then pick it up the next day. That was a big mistake, because Gwenyth and Rafe kept me turning the pages.
I like that both characters are unusual for historical romances. Rafe’s troubled past and the lack of support from his family during a difficult time made him a sympathetic character, and I enjoyed watching the family drama unfold. But more importantly, the chemistry between Rafe and Gwenyth is palpable. At times you’ll want to smack both characters for trying to deny their attraction, but the sexual tension is smoldering.
There are two aspects of the novel that bothered me, however. The first has to do with Rafe’s family. It’s a nice surprise when most of Rafe’s family welcomes him back with open arms. But Rafe’s younger brother Derek, now a clergyman, reacts to Rafe’s return with hostility and anger that frankly I never truly understood. Derek attempts to explain his feelings by saying that Rafe could have let them know where he was (true), but I never really bought his excuse. Derek also seemed to do a complete turnaround in his feelings inexplicably in the book, suddenly supporting Rafe in his pursuit of Gwenyth. It was just too abrupt, and I felt his character never developed satisfactorily.
The second aspect of the novel that bothered me has to do with Rafe’s childhood sweetheart, Anabel. She’s portrayed as a gold digging, mercenary woman, and Rafe acknowledges that aspect of her character. He even recognizes that she’s attempting to engage his interest after rejecting him so cruelly in the past, yet he still turns to her at times in attempts to deny his attraction and feelings for Gwenyth. It really bothered me that he would have such strong feelings for the heroine and yet make out with a woman he despises.
Nevertheless, overall this was an enjoyable read with a fun twist to the historical romance genre. I like that she chose such an unusual heroine, and I’ll certainly be looking for more of Ms. Rickloff’s books in the future.