by Kathryne Kennedy
Series: Relics of Merlin #1
Published on January 1, 2008 by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genres: Adult, Historical Romance, Paranormal Romance
Little-noticed Felicity Seymour is a woman with a problem: she can't take control of her parents' lands until she can prove her magical abilities, of which she's never had the slightest hint. When she meets a handsome were-lion baronet, Terence Blackwell, she's surprised at his interest; what she doesn't know is that Terence smells the taint of relic-magic on her, the same magic that killed his brother. Resolving to learn her secrets, Terence courts the worried wallflower and is as surprised as anyone when he falls head over heels. Soon after they marry in secret, Felicity discovers that people she's trusted all her life are conspiring to steal her magic, her title and her land. Now she's got to stop them with the help of her new husband-but how much does she really know about her mysterious mate?
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Take Victorian London, add a sprinkle of the myths of Merlin and you have a society based on magical power. Your rank is determined by how much you have–except the magic-immune shape-shifters like Terrence Blackwell, relic hunter and spy for the prince. But he’s only part of the story. Felicity Seymour was born of two very powerful parents but has no magical ability herself. Invisible to those around her, only Sir Terrence can see through the intricate spell woven around her.
I don’t read historical fiction very often, let alone historical romances, but this novel held my attention from the start with its ties to magic and fantasy. The society in this particular facet of Victorian London includes illusionists, alchemists, herbalists, and others that have power not found in your average peasant. These magic users make up the nobility, of sorts, in this era. Felicity, an only child whose parents were a duke and duchess, should have inherited some magical ability but strangely didn’t. Yet her aunt and uncle, who took her in after their deaths, helped prepare her for the testing to find out if she was powerful enough to hold the duchess title. But not all is as it seems and Felicity isn’t as normal as she thinks.
I not only found the fantastical elements of this novel intriguing and captivating, but the characters as well. Felicity isn’t some girl, born noble and caring only about her appearance and lifestyle. She really cares, especially about the were-lion Terrence who, after catching a whiff of relic magic on her, decides to court her to find out more. Instead, he falls for Felicity, putting her before his need to find another of Merlin’s relics that’s somehow linked to her. His love for Felicity and her innocence and love for Terrence really give the characters life instead of making them your stereotypical romance novel guy-girl protagonists.
The mix of fantasy, romance, and adventure kept me reading without breaking. I’d definitely recommend this to older teens and up (the age restriction only due to the descriptive but not too graphic sex scenes interwoven throughout the story). Overall, a great read.