Thursday, March 3, 2011

TBR pile: The Marriage Spell

I seem to be on a TBR pile conquering roll. Honestly, I think it's just my addictive nature toying with me after finishing all the seasons of Stargate Atlantis and now having to restrain myself to only watching Farscape episodes with my kids as part of my effort to share my love of sci-fi with them.

After an afternoon of cross country skiing--my first try at that behind busting (in more ways than one) endeavor-- with my kids, my sore body informed me that a long hot bath was in order. Long hot baths call for a book. That's where Mary Jo Putney's The Marriage Spell comes in.

A paranormal romance set in England sounded like a fun read. Wizards abound, both talented and not so much, but all are held in disdain by the snobby and politically powerful people of the upper class. When a lonely female healer wizard asks for marriage as payment for healing a mortally wounded Lord, he agrees rather than face death. As he falls in love with her he discovers he's a wizard too and now they must face a hostile society while he takes his place as Lord of his land.

As a reader, I found the book to be a lighthearted, quick read. It was also easy. Too easy for my taste. There's no thought involved in following along. There's conflict but everything is solved in a few pages and the characters, while endearing, happily barrel on to the next part of the plot.

The romance side of things was done well enough, sweet with a few warm fuzzy moments tossed in. The one thing I did applaud was the use of the title, which turned out to have a revealed meaning more literal than I'd first suspected. If you're looking for a romance read for a mindless day, this book may be for you.

As a writer, this was a major lesson in tension, or lack thereof. This book clearly illustrates that we can go far too easy on our characters. While full of what could have been tension filled scenes, they moved too quick and the solutions were too obvious to convey any real sense of danger, threat or heartpounding 'oh my god, what is going to happen next/how will they get out of this situation?' moments. There was a vague overall plot goal, but it felt more like the characters were bumbling about from one subplot to the next more often than not.

Characters spent the first half of the book not asking each other obvious questions that they logically should have asked, didn't share information with each other for random reasons that seemed darned hollow, or just never happened to though there was plenty of opportunity for conversation. Those lost opporutnities would have increased the tension level or avoided misunderstandings that led to weak plot moments.

On the plus side, this book was a breath of fresh air in the atypical female main character. She wasn't tiny, skinny, petite, beautiful, full of charm, had the waist the size of a starved twelve year old, got lost in her husband's embrace, or was snarky for the sake of having a contrary, spoiled or perky personality. She was a normal woman, of average beauty with normal doubts and a personality to match. While everyone in this book seemed to suffer from a lack of confidence in some manner of their personality, I did enjoy her character enough to see the book to the last page.

Would I read this book again? No, but I'd be willing to give the author another chance because even my favorites have a weak novel now and then.

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