So Enchanting, by Connie Brockway

>> Saturday, September 05, 2009

TITLE: So Enchanting
AUTHOR: Connie Brockway

PAGES: 432

SETTING: Victorian Scotland
TYPE: Straight Romance

REASON FOR READING: It's a Connie Brockway historical, and it's also a comedy. The Bridal Season and Bridal Favours are probably my two favourites of hers, so I couldn't wait to read this.

The Scottish hamlet of Little Firkin has one important industry: the guardianship of Amelie Chase, a witchling banished by the ton for her alleged supernatural powers, and entrusted by her benefactor to Fanny Walcott. But the scheme is hitting a snag: Little Firkin is cramping Amelie’s style, anonymous notes are threatening her life, and now, two handsome travelers arrive with tantalizing links to the pasts of both women. And what’s happening in Little Firkin is so enchanting, it’s going to take a leap of faith to believe it.
Greyson Sheffield despises mediums, psychics and other frauds who prey on people too desperate or grief-stricken to protect themselves. His father was bankrupted by such people after Grey's mother and sister died, and Grey blamed them for leaving his previously strong, sensible father a broken man. He has become a specialist in exposing charlatans and debunking their claims, even gathering evidence for them to be prosecuted for fraud.

The only problem is, it turns out some people really do have paranormal abilities. Fanny Walcott is one of them. Since she was a girl, she's had a strong psychic connection with animals. She can influence them, purposely or not. The latter is a problem: animals will react when she's feeling strong emotions, so strange things happen when she gets upset. After an episode in which her young brother was injured by animals just because she got angry, she began to consider her gift more of a curse. An elopement at 16 only solidified her decision to ignore her psychic abilities. Her husband was the sort of charlatan despised by Grey, and it soon became clear that rather than treasure her gift, he wanted to exploit it in his medium sessions.

It was in one of those sessions that Grey and Fanny first met. He was there investigating her husband and succeeded in unmasking him in front of his clients, but was struck by the man's beautiful assistant and never completely forgot her. As for Fanny, she never forgot Grey, either, but at the time had more pressing concerns, like how to survive on her own after her husband ran off.

She had a stroke of luck when she was approached by a former neighbour of her parents'. The man remembered that young Fanny had had some unique abilities, and now that his daughter, Amelie, seemingly has some of her own, he wanted someone for her governess who would understand her and help her deal with her abilities.

Six years after these events, Fanny, now widowed, is still Amelie's governess. They live in the tiny town of Little Firkin, in rural Scotland, where the villagers don't find paranormal activity a motive to be worried. Both her husband and Amelie's father are dead, and Amelie's new guardian is not too fussed about her, so they're mostly left alone. Until, that is, the arrival of Greyson Sheffield.

Grey happens to be there at the request of Amelie's guardian, who's received news of threats to the girl. He's extremely surprised when the first person he sees is the beautiful young woman who was allied to a charlatan all those years ago. Unfortunately, even after all those years, he is as taken with her as he was the first time he met her.

It's too obvious a comment, but it has to be said: So Enchanting really is enchanting. There's just something about Brockway's voice that's tremendously charming and funny at the same time. It kind of reminds me of Loretta Chase's, come to think of it. Both their voices are witty and elegant and infused with humour.

We get two romances for the price of one here, and they couldn't be more different. Grey's accompanied on his visit to the Highlands by his young nephew, Hayden. He and Amelie are immediately smitten and wild about each other. Cue passionate speeches and goings on, much to Grey and Fanny's exasperation. Because for all that these two would seem to be natural enemies, one being a debunker of the paranormal and the other someone with true paranormal abilities, they share an outlook on life. Both Grey and Fanny are mature people, and with a dry, no-nonsense attitude.

Which makes Grey's lack of control around Fanny even sweeter. He recognises her immediately, and can't help but suspect she must be running a scam up there. There has to be some sort of angle, even if, hard as he thinks, he can't imagine what. And yet, he can't resist the woman. Neither can Fanny resist him, however much she worries about being ruined by him. It's a beautiful thing to see them fall in love, and I very much enjoyed that the obvious conflict ("I have paranormal abilities" - "Liar, there's no such thing!") never ensues.

Lovely, just lovely. I can't wait for the next one.



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