I picked up this one-author anthology a while ago because I like the author, but hadn’t had the chance to read it. Then I saw the pre-order notice for Her Endearing Young Charms, a novel I read in earlier draft that is set in the same world as the title short story. It reminded me of the collection, a fact I’m grateful for as I especially enjoyed the first of these three stories.
A Lady of Many Charms
This is a Regency Era love story with magic that delves into the questions of why and how someone falls in love. The story offers a focused view of the marriage mart that demonstrates both the foolhardy and desperate nature found in the historical tradition, which magic only emphasizes.
At the same time, through Daphne and Perry’s story, we get to experience the newfangled trend of wanting a love match instead of an advantageous one up close. While I laughed and felt for them at times, what I liked the most is how, though they met by chance, the story builds in time and ways for them to grow in affection. I enjoyed my return to the world of Her Endearing Young Charms, but beyond the shared world, this story is in no way a repeat of that one. Despite the length, I got a good sense of both Perry and Daphne while the issues that sprang from their first instinct to maintain a hint of mystery between them were half of the chuckles. I loved how I could understand what drove both of them to act against the trends of the time, and loved especially the ultimate moment where desire and fear clash until strength of character comes through. And yes, that’s about as obscure as I can make it, because I don’t want to spoil the fun.
Ellie Loves Josh
This is another look at magic as manipulative that managed to surprise me even though the initial issue was one I predicted. You might think you know exactly what’s going to happen with Ellie and her unrequited love for Josh, but wait for it because the story takes an interesting turn I haven’t seen much in love spell tales. It made me appreciate the story all the more. The feel of high school and crushes and that whole environment came through very well, and I loved how Josh wasn’t the quarterback or debate team captain or the type of person everyone crushes on. He’s just a boy who caught Ellie’s attention and with whom she built a connection even though he doesn’t seem to realize she exists. It’s familiar in that everywoman story way, but has its own unique elements.
The Valentine Raffle
The third story had some good points, but honestly didn’t work as well for me. The tone of the first two, light and a little hyper, blended beautifully with their stories, strengthening them. The same tone is not as effective in a dystopian future, at least for me, and so came across as overdone. I also had issues with the premise, but without the tone, I’d probably been more willing to accept it as a gimmie. On the other hand, I liked Leo a lot. He has a fun way of thinking around problems and he’s willing to take the big risks to help people. Even more, when things don’t go his way, he hops onto a new contingency plan or identifies how a failure brought unexpected benefits. He doesn’t wallow. A strong character can make a story enjoyable even with issues, and he certainly did that. Though not my favorite of the stories, he kept me reading to the end.