Midsummer Magic (A LLB favorite)
By Catherine Coulter, 1998 reissue, originally released in 1987, European Historical
Topaz, $7.50, ISBN #0451408705
First in a trilogy that also includes Calypso Magic and Moonspun Magic


Well, now those people who like a soft, sensitive, sweet hero - beware!! Philip Evelyn Desborough Hawksbury, Earl of Rothermere, better known as Hawk by his military friends, is about as arrogant and devilish as they come. I loved him. Especially since he met his match in this book with young, headstrong Frances Kilbracken. Watching these two butt heads is the most fun you can have reading a book.

Hawk's father, obviously the donor of Hawk's more devilish attributes, contrives to get his second son married after his heir is killed in a yachting accident. Pretending a fatal illness, he tells Hawk of a Scottish man who saved his life from bandits, and in return, the Marquis promised the hand ofhis son to one of the Scotman's daughters. Now that Hawk is the new heir, it's his duty to uphold his father's honor and go collect his wife - while his father is still alive to meet her.

Though it goes against everything he wants in life, Hawk does his duty to his ailing father. He travels to Scotland where he must choose between three youngwomen. Two of the women are titillated and anxious to be chosen, but Frances,in no hurry to leave her homeland and her father, wants nothing to do with thearrogant Englishman. The only way she can see to get out of the muddle is to present herself as a dowdy mouse with nothing to recommend her as wifely material.

But this plans backfires. Hawk, after spending much of his time in the military, is presently enjoying his stint in London with his mistress and all the routs. Knowing if he chooses one of the lovely sisters he'll be forced to take them about London, he instead chooses Frances, thinking she's so plain and withdrawn, she'll be happy to stay on his estate in York and leave him tohis own devices. Frances is forced to wed Hawk, and in the hopes he'll leave her quickly, she keeps up her mouse facade. But there is the bedding to contend with, and Hawk, under the misguided conclusions that wives and ladies receive no pleasure from sex, does little to make the experience pleasant for Frances. It's a lot of respectful fumbling in the dark with no kissing and no unnecessary touching. Frances hates it and him, and Hawk, finding no pleasure in the act, is anxious to return to his mistress. Especially when he gets to his father's estate, only to find the man in the peak of health. Knowing he's been duped and well and truly caught, Hawk leaves for London.

Once alone on his estate, Frances throws herself into managing the horse stables Hawk owns. Frances has a way with horses and enthusiastically goes about making the horse farm well respected again, with the hopes of getting the horses back into the races. Hawk, feeling guilty for leaving her behind while he wallows in London, iseasily convinced by his mistress that he should go home and seduce his wife. (Amalie, Hawk's blue-stocking mistress, makes an adorable secondary character. Good-hearted and concientious, you can't help but like her.)

His shock upon returning home and finding Frances - not the homely Frances heleft behind, but a Frances that's so gorgeous she makes his teeth ache - is only the start of the fireworks. Hawk now knows he's been played for a fool and as they both struggle to get the upper hand - while finally getting to really know each other - they fall in love. Sex becomes lovemaking, more powerful than Hawk had ever expected and more incredible than Frances could have ever dreamed. Each is hesitant to admit their growing feelings to the other. Hawk remembers the awful start they had and how Frances practically forced his away to London, and Frances remembers that he never wanted a wifein the first place.

As Hawk and Frances equally love and fight, a terrible truth is uncovered. Hawk's brother didn't die by accident, but was murdered, and someone is out to destroy their horses, but why? It all ties together in a wonderful mystery that brings a full cast of characters together in a hilarious debacle. One of the things I loved most about this book was that Ms. Coulter didn't try the unbelievable task of making Hawk a tame lapdog in the end. Hawk loves Frances, she knows it, but they still argue and fight and he's still arrogant and cocky (though his Mistress days are a thing of the past). Even in the following books, when these two are reintroduced, Hawk and Frances stay in character. The love is apparent, but so are the two very strong personalities - and the conflicts that often arise from concern and caring. It's a wonderful book, and a terrific introduction to the next two.

-- Lori Foster

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