Friday, May 02, 2008

Like A Charm by Candace Havens

"Nothing reveals a lack of comic inventiveness more reliably than the
presence of reflexive epithets, eliciting snickers not because they
exist within any intentional 'context' but simply because they are crass
words that someone is saying out loud."--Susan Jacoby, The Age of
American Unreason.

The above quote is spot-on, and one of the reasons that I never used profanity in my stand up comedy class. I always felt that, as my dear departed friend Muff used to say, "Only stupid people without a decent vocabulary need to swear. There are always better words to use than curse words."

But, I digress.

I happened across Candace Haven's "Like A Charm" while I was in Iowa, and it sounded like my kind of book: magic, a smart female protagonist and a library full of ghosts, with a romantic storyline. Sigh. Darn near perfect escapist reading formula.
Though I was a bit taken aback by the shapely blonde on the pink cover, holding a pink book (I think its a chick-lit cliche to have a pink cover)I still had a good feeling about the novel from the moment I plucked it from the shelves.

Fortunately, my gut instinct was right, and this trade paperback paranormal romance novel was charming, funny, interesting and read like a dream.
Chick Lit in general, unless you're reading the masters like Jennifer Weiner, has devolved into a lot of whiney female protagonists agonizing over every extra pound of fat and scrutinizing every other female they know, being b*tchy about it, and trying to snag a hot guy they never think they're good enough for. There's usually a lot of talk about clothing and parties and having/dealing with kids is always a huge grind that leads the poor woman away from her vain self, which is seen as a bad thing.

This novel doesn't stop on the trail of whine, however, not even for a short tantrum, as its too busy with the mystery of why our heroine, Kira Smythe, doesn't realize she has magical powers lurking inside of her, and why she doesn't want to give up her boring lawyer life for the fun of her hometown hunk, and the gorgeous library she's been willed by an old mentor.
The story runs thus:
Kira is a high-powered attorney and workaholic who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, far enough away from her embarrassing hippie parents that she doesn't have to deal with them but once or twice a year on holidays. But all work and no play gives Kira mono, and she collapses after a horrific scene in which a client commits suicide.Kira returns to her parents ashram/retreat in Sweet, Texas, and discovers that they've become successful retreat owners (they have three) and lavender farmers,though they still eat a vegetarian/tofu based diet, which their daughter finds disgusting. While Kira's recovering, she reconnects with an old friend from high school, who is now the local doctor, and he just happens to have a hottie journalism pal, Caleb, who gives Kira the "tingle" that tells a gal when she's destined for some seriously hot sex. Meanwhile, though, Kira also reconnects with her old mentor, Mrs Canard, who happens to own and run the local library, which is home to a bunch of book-loving ghosts who come there to check out their favorites as well (who knew that you could read in the afterlife?). After Mrs Canard dies, she leaves the library to Kira, along with an apartment above the library and the proviso that Kira must run the library herself,and move back to Sweet, otherwise the whole place will be sold at auction and the town won't have a place to find books. Sweet, it should be mentioned, is home to a coven of protective witches and more than a few eccentrics and magical folks, including a pastry baker from South Africa. Kira has also been fired from her job, so she's being wooed by a number of law firms in New York. Hence, she has a lot of decisions to make, in amongst the romance that's forming between Kira and Caleb,who discovers that the lovely Kira is, gasp, a virgin. I don't think its such a stretch to find a woman who has been working too hard to find the right guy, and who has been waiting for the man who gives her the tingle to give in. I certainly tried to do that myself, and after dating a number of bizarre guys who had no clue what to do about sex anyway, I finally found the man who is my husband now, who did, indeed, make me tingle when he touched me. Everything turns out alright, of course, and there's the standard HEA, but I do have to say that I didn't see the stalker thing coming until it actually happened.
Havens prose was spunky and zingy, just like her heroine, and the plot zoomed along at a breathless clip. There was just the right amount of tension, humor, sex and mayhem to keep the reader engaged and interested throughout the novel. Of course, any novel that has a library or readers and bibliophiles in it is already a hit with me. I would recommend this book as a joyous read to anyone who enjoys magical romance with a twist, a good ghost story combined with chick lit, or just an entertaining read.

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