Review copy provided by the author, who is also a personal friend.
This is the latest installment in the Harwood Spellbook series of romantic fantasies, shorter than novel length but longer than short stories. In each one the romance and the fantasy are very strongly entangled: while the plot can be framed as a standard romance plot such as “secret engagement” or “miscommunication about true intentions,” these elements are always inextricable from the fantasy worldbuilding–a reader who hated fantasy couldn’t just “skip that part,” nor could a reader who hated romance. Both parts are crucially built into the structure of the piece, nothing wasted or extraneous.
This is no exception. Julianna Banks, a brilliant magician, has been working tirelessly in her studies at Thornfell College of Magic, determined to prove her own worth and the worth of the new class of women magicians–not only for herself but for her secret fiancee, Caroline Fennell. Caroline’s letters, on the other hand, have been distant and strange. Caroline’s fortunes have changed, and she fears that their relationship must change with them. On the night of Thornfell’s ball, the two stumble into problems of their own making–and of magical origin–in the moonlit gardens. It takes not only Julianna’s magic but also Caroline’s diplomatic insight to extricate them from their troubles with gorgeous ball dresses more or less intact.
This was just the kind of fun I needed on the day I read it, and I think fans of the series will appreciate it. I have low tolerance for miscommunication plots, and I think in this case the shorter nature of the work helped a lot–I didn’t have to squirm through hundreds of pages of JUST SAY IT, they could get to the good honest trusting parts much sooner because it is SHORT, which made the entire enterprise easier on my nerves. Hooray.