I should trust my instincts.
I passed over this book twice in the library: taking note, but not making the commitment. It caught my eye when I pulled it from the new collection first, and then again when I was shifting the fiction section.
When I finally went back and checked it out, I had high hopes. Romance can work, and magic is almost always fun, right? And, hey, knitting!
This book isn’t even powerful enough to make it a wall banger. I still couldn’t finish, but more out of exasperation than any passionate hatred. But it was bad enough that even though the whole experience was more than a couple of months ago at this point, I simply can’t let it go without at least talking it out.
Casting Spells is a book about blonde (don’t forget) Chloe Hobbs and her magical knitting shop in her magical town with her magical friends, where nothing bad, especially crime, ever happens. But when a voluptuous (remember–voluptuousness=wantonness) blonde is murdered, handsome cop (remember good-looking and crime-fighter) Luke MacKenzie must come to town and mediate on how odd everyone is…you might they’re magical but of course they’re totally not because I know better. And then together they will fall in love and solve the mystery. (Or is it the other way around? I didn’t get that far.)
Well, first I have to introduce the main character’s knitting shop with a quote from the book:
Blog posts about the magical store in northern Vermont where your yarn never tangles, your sleeves always come out the same length, and you always, always get gauge were popping up on a daily basis, raising both my profile and my bottom line.
What a way to make me resent your character. Knitting is perfectly easy if you have magic! I don’t have magic thank you very much, and dangnabbit, that’s just not fair. So why am I supposed to think that she actually works at this, that she ever actually had to learn knitting? I’m not sure I am. So know I can only think Mary Sue alert! And this supposedly has a side of murder-mystery to its romance, so of course the male lead is an out-of-town cop who also has to comment on the heroine’s shop:
Her shop was a top link on websites and blogs from neighboring New Hampshire to Malaysia with all stops in between. Okay, so maybe it was like reading Sanskrit (apparently knitters had their own language), but I was able to translate enough to know Chloe’s shop was something special…
…According to the posts I read online, Chloe was Elvis and Sticks & Strings was Graceland, which I would probably chalk up to being a suburban legend if it weren’t for the fact that the noise level at the front of the store could cause hearing loss.
Which quite fortuitously leads me to point number two (especially since, well seriously, “hearing loss”???).
Yes, the story is told in alternating first person. I’ve found I’m a little iffy on first person in the best of times (positive example: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison), but alternating first person should be forbidden on pain of death. Okay, so I think many things should be forbidden on pain of death, but fortunately I’m not in charge of these things, nor will I ever be. Anyway, alternating first person=bad. Yes?
Because when it’s used, especially in romance you get gems like these:
They were all vying for the attention of a tall, skinny blonde, one of the disheveled types who always seemed on the verge of a meltdown.
That’s how Luke first observes Chloe—by they way, she’s actually mayor, which is why he has to opportunity to give this description—as he thinks ‘that’s totally not my type’. Totally. Like, never would I be attracted to a lady like that in a million, zillion years. Ever. Sure, I believe him. Seriously, Ms. Bretton, talk to your publishers. This is marketed as a romance, so as soon as we get Luke’s point of view, we know that he’s going to fall in love with her. If she’s observing that he doesn’t act attracted to her on a physical level, that’s fine. But when he does it? It’s just…just…ugh.
And not even fifteen pages later he finds Chloe asleep and snoring and doesn’t even try to wake her (as we also learned in Twilight, that’s not creepy at all) and tells himself this little gem:
Cops notice things. It’s an occupational hazard. Noticing details about a woman’s appearance was part of a detective’s job description. It didn’t mean anything.
Not even if the cop in question found himself standing there with a stupid grin on his face.
These two characters switch viewpoints several times a chapter (but only after the first fifty pages or something) so it’s only a matter of hours from “totally not my type” to “omg hawtness”.
Actually, if the alternating first person were between Chloe and her “best friend” whatshisname (call him Elf, because he is, naturally) it might have worked. Because Chloe’s been stringing him along since forever—because all male, non-gay best friends must be in love with the main character—and I would like to have seen him get with some nice girl of his own in a real relationship based on something more than lust. Maybe that happened later in the book? But not from his point of view. No, we get Luke’s, so we can see everything twice.
Wait, I haven’t gotten to the squicky yet.
That poor Chloe, from a long line of witches, has no magic herself but was raised by the village. Sweet right? Chloe thinks so. Except her family line (at least the women—WOMAN POWAH!!!) are in charge of this ancient spell that protects the town from exposure to the pedestrians. And she has to give birth to a girl by thirty-five or something to keep the spell going. Or get magic herself, idk. But the locals totally raised her out of the goodness of their hearts and just love her so much.
At that point, I really did feel badly for Chloe. In that whole setup she’s definitely the victim, and her so-called saviors are only exploiting her. But was this explored? Well, not in the part I read. She never questioned anything they’d done.
But she does tell Luke about her parent’s death, and of course this changes him. See, he’s a cop (in case you forgot—didn’t I tell you that it was important?!) and often hears sad stories, but hers touches his heart. As does she. Because she’s just so stoic:
She told her parents’ story without embellishment or self pity.
I’d rather hope so. She was, what? a few years old at most? Firstly, she shouldn’t know any embellishments, and at this point in her live, self-pity would be rather pathetic (now, if she ever seemed like a rounded character or even thought about her parents). We’ve had her first person. We know that she doesn’t have any reason for self-pity.
But this is Twu Wuv.
My hand touched his, and we both jumped back as silver-white sparks crackled through the space between us.