Completed 4/21/2015, Reviewed 4/22/2015
This book took me by surprise. It started out slow, almost tedious. Bah, I thought, this is nothing but a typical romance novel with a little magic thrown in. A woman gets fired from her job, ends up doing summer stock in Vermont, falls for the mysterious brooding director who’s hiding some magical secret, and it ends happily ever after. Humbug! Then about a hundred pages in, something happened, and I was completely hooked.
So it reads like a romance novel, or at least what I think a romance novel would read like. (Okay, I admit, I read “The Thorn Birds” when it first came out in paperback, so I kinda know that they’re like). And it’s not really all that deep. In fact, it’s rather soapy. It just has a lot of good hooks. I think my favorite was the main character. It took me most of the first hundred pages to realize that she was not a stereotypical damsel in distress. Maggie Graham is a 32 year-old overweight ginger with a lot of baggage who can’t hold down a job. For some reason she is drawn to audition for summer stock theater in a tiny Vermont town she happens to be passing through. She’s acted a little before, but nothing professional. She gets parts in all three productions, begins rehearsals, and then things get weird, and then weirder. But she’s no great heroine and quite insecure. That’s what made me like her. At times, I felt that Ashford stretched out the melodrama a little too much, but it still worked. I still liked Maggie.
The whole premise of a magical theater company was quite fun too. Ashford must have acted before, because her descriptions of the acting experience, during rehearsals and the performances, are quite exquisite. I found myself really feeling part Maggie’s experience on the stage. I’m sure it tugged at the acting seeds that were planted when I did a couple of high school musicals. These sections are perhaps the best written parts of the book.
The hardest thing to get past was the trope of the dark, brooding director. Actually, he’s quite pale, but “dark, brooding” sounds better. Rowan has something magical about him, but is aloof and intense. And of course, there’s some deep hidden secret that keeps him from allowing himself to get too involved with Maggie. There were times all I could see was the cover model of a Harlequin romance at the grocery store, pining. And the whole get too close, stay too distant thing got a little annoying at times. But the payoff in the end was pretty satisfying.
The sex, well, it’s a tad disturbing. I’ll leave it at that because it’s too much of a spoiler to pursue here. I’m not a prude, but Geez Louise!
This book is no classic, but it’s really fun. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it and was satisfied by the ending. I don’t know if I’ll read the sequel. At least there’s only one so far. I give this book three stars out of five. For my loyal readers, you know this means it’s good, and worth a read. It’s the kind of fluff that’s great to read between heavier books like Tolkien’s posthumous works and Dune, or during the summer at the beach down the shore, which is where my mother read all her romance novels.