Melanie Rawn,
(Tor, 2006)

Holly McClure is keeping secrets from her boyfriend Evan Lachlan. Not only is she bestselling novelist H. Elizabeth McClure, but she's also a witch. Not just any witch, either, but a "spellbinder," whose blood has the peculiar property of making any spell work every time. There are those who would go to great lengths to possess Holly for her blood.

Evan, a federal marshal assigned to protect Elias Bradshaw -- who happens to be New York City's magical Magistrate as well as a more mundane judge -- enjoys a tempestuous relationship with Holly, whose fiery Irish temper matches his own. Their relationship is threatened, however, when old-fashioned Evan discovers Holly's secrets -- though not in the way one might expect. He actually finds it easier to deal with the fact that Holly is a witch than that she's a rich witch who makes far more money than he ever will.

And then a Satanist learns about Holly and her special blood. How will Evan protect her when he doesn't understand what he's protecting her from?

Subtitled A Love Story with Magical Interruptions, Spellbinder is just that. The romance element is heavy, but so is the witchery. Rawn appears to have done her homework on both Wicca and Satanism; her descriptions of each religion's rites read very realistically. It's a nice departure to see a paranormal romance that doesn't involve vampires (though one does make an appearance in a flashback), werewolves or other supernatural beasties. Instead, Rawn gives us human beings with very human frailties, despite their supernatural abilities. It's easy to imagine Rawn's witches walking down the city streets; her tone is much more reminiscent of Rosemary Edghill's Bast novels than of any of the current crop of urban fantasy/paranormal romances.

Spellbinder is a thoroughly bewitching novel, and I highly recommend falling under its spell.

review by
Laurie Thayer

21 July 2007

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