Book Review

A Little Night Magic by Lucy March - A Guest Review by Betty Fokker

B+

Title: A Little Night Magic
Author: Lucy March
Publication Info: St. Martin's Griffin 2012
ISBN: 978-1250002679
Genre: Paranormal

Book Cover Betty Fokker wrote a guest review of Lucy March's “A Little Night Magic,” and I wanted to share it with you.


must make with the confession. I am an Internet-Pal of Lucy March/Lani Diane Rich. It is like being a real-life friend, except we’ve never gotten drunk and talked each other into getting a Tramp Stamp of jumping dolphins at 3:00 AM. (Not that this has happened to me.) This means that I am not without favorable bias when I read her work.

However, my mild mannered mundane self is an academic, and I swore on a Roget’s Thesaurus that all literary reviews would contain some criticism. The penalties for “failing to critique” are harsh. You have to watch Jaws IV without commenting on the plot holes or bad special effects, and you are accused of having written a “hagiography” about an author. You’ll go to academic conferences and someone will have scrawled “hagiographer” across your place card in red marker. No one will sit with you at lunch. It gets real ugly, real fast.

A Little Night Magic is Lani Diane Rich’s first offering under the pen name Lucy March. Here’s the handy-dandy synopsis of the plot:

“Olivia Kiskey needs a change. She’s been working at the same Nodaway Falls, New York, waffle house since she was a teenager; not a lot of upward mobility there. She’s been in love with Tobias, the cook, for the last four years; he’s never made a move. Every Saturday night, she gathers with her three best friends—Peach, Millie, and Stacy—and drinks the same margaritas while listening to the same old stories. Intent on shaking things up, she puts her house on the market, buys a one-way ticket to Europe, and announces her plans to her friends… but then she meets Davina Granville, a strange and mystical Southern woman who shows Olivia that there is more to her life than she ever dreamed. As Liv’s latent magical powers come to the surface, she discovers that having an interesting life is maybe not all it’s cracked up to be. The dark side of someone else’s magic is taking over good people in town, and changing them into vessels of malevolence. Unwilling to cede her home to darkness, she battles the demons of her familial past and her magical present, with those she loves at her side . . . and in the cross fire. Can the most important things in life—friendship, love, magic, and waffles—get her through the worst that the universe can throw at her?”

Like all her work this book was well written. There are no parts you skip over, because the plot moves along at a fine clip. There is no egregious uses of multiple adverbs in one sentence. She runs a writers workshop called StoryWonk and it must be a good one, because girlfriend can bust an arc.

Nevertheless, there are things I can gripe about. Like how this book's cover screams “I am light chick lit with sexy times and a HAE!”. This is a mistake on the publishers part, I think. The cover should be dark and have a Pretty Goth Lady looking determined/scared on it. Then the reader would be able to enjoy the book without thinking, “In what fucking universe is this shit a light rom-com?” Because it does take a little while for your brain to switch gears, if you have formed even the smallest impression from the cover. This doesn't mean there is no humor. It's funny in spots. There is wit aplenty. For example, this interaction between the protagonists:

“I'm not mad,” I said automatically, then swished my mop over the square again. I wish you'd break out in boils. Swish.

“I'm not an idiot, Liv. I know you're pissed.” He let out a long sigh. “Can we at least talk about it?”

“I'd be happy too, but I don't know what you're talking about.” Swish swish. I hope your ear hair grows freakishly long. Swish. 

“Bullshit”

I stopped mopping and looked at him. “If you're trying to get on my good side, you suck at it.”

But the book, as a whole, is not a relaxing and fun easy-read by any means. The trouble is trying to give you a sample of WHY the writing is not a “breezy romp” without making it a spoiler. This book is TIGHT. To show you the scenes that made me sad, or angry, or thoughtful, or any of the things not associated with a light rom-com, I'd be giving away great big chunks o' plot. The book has a 'thriller' vibe, and plot surprises are important.

In fact, the inherent tightness of the plot is an issue … there is a problem with the length of the book. This book needed more room for the story. If March wasn’t such a good craftsman, the story would have been a mish-mash because she couldn’t develop the characters fully. You had to take the heroine’s word for it about almost all the essential elements, and even then you had a couple of important people pop up where you thought, “Who are they again?” and had to flip pages backwards to figure it out. Give it up for March tho; if she she brought something up then she had used it to advance the plot by the end of the book. There is a literary term called Chekhov’s gun. It comes from the fact Chekhov (the Russian writer, not the Star Trek ensign) advised that, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.” So never write something you aren’t planning on using. I was very impressed with March’s use of Chekhov’s gun.  She is Annie Oakley with that thing.

But it makes it a total pain in the ass to show a sample of the book without revealing something that needs to come as a surprise later to really enjoy the first reading of the book.

Also on the negative side, I had a hard time identifying with the heroine, Olivia. As all you Smart Bitches know, the TSTL (To Stupid To Live) heroine is anathema to us all. Fortunately, Olivia was not a TSTL kinda girl. However, she was frequently To Noble To Live. This might not be an issue for many readers. The nice people reading it will probably understand her moral quandaries and totally sympathize with her choices. I, however, am a Hillbilly. We have a different set of ethics.

To address this there must be spoilers (although I tried to spoil as little as possible). Highlight it to read:

Okay, there is a point where the Baddie is threatening to kill Olivia. The Baddie has already killed family members. The Baddie is tells Olivia that they will kill kids via a school bus accident if Olivia doesn’t comply with the Baddie’s demands. One of the protagonists in the story can kill at a distance. But Olivia just CANNOT knowingly consent to taking a person’s life. She decides she must sacrifice herself to save the others, rather than take out the Baddie. In contrast to Olivia, I am the descendant of thousands of mean little Appalachian women. If you kill a loved one, if you kill a child or threaten to kill a child, we will grab our sawed-off shotguns and turn you into an interesting splatter pattern. This will be considered a “suicide” in my neck of the woods, because only someone who wanted to die would threaten to kill a child where hard-core Hillbilly women can hear it. So the fact Olivia would, at least at first, rather die than terminate the Baddie drove me nuts. Moreover, she tried to send the Hero away to save him. I hate that shit.

The ending of the book was multifaceted. It was a HAE, romance-wise, but like Real Life is often wont to be, not everything was ideal. There was Sorrow. There was Change. On the plus side the heroine repented any dumb things she had done and grew as a person. I always like it when the protagonist grows.

In short (too late, I know) this was a good book, but not to every one’s taste. Don’t pick it up thinking it’s going to be a confectionery. It’s more like a good salad. There are a lot of flavors in it and somethings may taste bitter. You kind of need some bitter in a good salad tho.

Overall, I would give it an B+, because good writing trumps an incongruous cover design and a few rough edges in the characters.


This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Girlygirlhoosier52 says:

    Was there a blurb on the back?  I really get peeved when the cover art doesn’t match up with the storyline..

  2. 2
    Natalie says:

    I picked this book up by chance at Target and loved it. The cover is a little deceptive since the story is in no way a rom-com at all. But it does make sense in others since she is a waitress and that “magic square” keeps making appearances throughout the story….but I agree that it should have a darker cover.

    Overall, I completely agree with this review. Not meant for everyone, but a very good rainy day read.

  3. 3
    Jennifer says:

    I was one of those folks that this book was not meant for.  As in, instead of finding humor with or sympathy for the lead character, I just found her annoying as hell. Which, in that way, it was like my experience with things marketed as chick-lit!

  4. 4
    Kari Young says:

    I enjoyed the book but found the marketing to be off. It wasn’t so much a romantic comedy as a romantic thriller with magical elements. But I enjoyed it. I think the B+ rating is accurate and I’m looking forward to more Lucy March books.

  5. 5
    Sierra says:

    I really wanted to like it. I loved the beginning. But halfway through it felt like it turned into a different book. And not a great one. Just an okay one.

    I couldn’t relate to any of the characters, the villain was obvious (to me, at least), and the supporting characters didn’t have much depth. I read it when it first came out, and the fact that I can’t remember anything about it right now is telling. Normally I remember all sorts of crazy details.

    The writing was witty, but I kept feeling like I was missing things and didn’t even chuckle out loud after the first 30 pages. Overall, I finished it feeling let down and unsatisfied. Kind of like awesome foreplay with no follow-through. :/ I would give it a C+ or B- at the most.

  6. 6
    Sierra says:

    Meant to say “the fact that I can’t remember anything SPECIFIC about it…” *sigh* Need more coffee.

  7. 7
    Chris J. says:

    I also follow some of Lani/Lucy’s doings online, and I so wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, I was disappointed in a lot of the choices Olivia made throughout the book, and I don’t feel it worked as a romance. The hero and heroine spent almost no time together, and when they were together they were both unhappy with each other.

    Also, the thing about Chekhov’s gun is when it’s used too assiduously it just makes the story predictable. I too thought it was obvious who the real villain was because of that damn gun.

  8. 8
    WriterMomma78 says:

    So, i read this post and I immediately started laughing.  I have been that Waffle House waitress who was in love with the cook.  I am def going to find this book. Gotta read it to see if Lani/Lucy got it right. :)

  9. 9
    Guestguest says:

    Rainy day read imo!! Its pretty good though!

    http://goo.gl/Qb944

  10. 10
    LauraN says:

    I’m with the Hillbilly women.

  11. 11
    ksattler says:

    I very much would like to be spoiled, but I am reading on an iPad and cannot highlight. Pout.

    Thanks for the clue that the book isnt light romance! Having read Lani’s previous books and the excerpt for this one I would have been surprised & confused.

  12. 12
    Stormy says:

    Much as I wanted to like this book, I just couldn’t.

  13. 13
    jill says:

    Look at Betty bandying about literary terms, re-designing books covers and saying “bust an arc.” Woo-hoo!

    Love how there is such subjectivity among “trash.”  Which is, duh, the whole point of this place, but it’s kind of an emerging concept in my brain.  Am going to go poke around at once.  if only to discover what HAE means….

    jill
    http://inbedwithmarriedwomen.b…

  14. 14
    Betty Fokker says:

    Happily Ever After. It is a key component of the romance genre. Without it, the book is not a romance. However, a HEA in a mystery does not necessarily make it a romance, either. There are criteria that must be met.

  15. 15
    Deborah Blake says:

    Great review, Betty Fokker! I really enjoyed the book, as I enjoy all of Lucy/Lani’s writing, although I admit that I prefer her earlier ones a smidge. But I loved the magical elements (well, duh), and liked the protagonist for the most part. I actually liked the cover, however :-)

  16. 16

    I totally agree with your review, BF. I am especially in agreement with and pleased by this: “There are no parts you skip over, because the plot moves along at a fine clip.” I skip over parts on 8 books out of 10 and I didn’t miss a word of this one.
    (Full disclosure I am also a Lucy March cyber friend.)
    Now if we could just tie Gabaldon down and let Lucy edit her next book it might be 350 fully readable pages instead of 800+ mostly skippable ones.

  17. 17
    Guest says:

    Psst. You might want to proof-read this. “Though” is a word, “tho” isn’t. And is it your mistake or March’s for the use of the wrong to in “I’d be happy too”?

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