Spellcast by Barbara Ashford
May 3, 2011
Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Remember that he loves you, that you are his heart, that he will carry you with him all the days and nights of his long life. Remember how much you love him, that it’s not merely an echo of his feelings, but as real as the sun on your back and the tears on your face.”
Maggie Graham is having a very bad day. First she lost her job, then the ceiling in her NY apartment collapsed. Believing this may be karma’s way of telling her to get out of town, Maggie heads towards Vermont in search of benediction and solid ceilings. She sees a sign for Dale, Vermont and upon entering the town feels like she has entered a time warp. Norman Rockwell-esque buildings clash with the ‘bikers welcome’ and ‘free wifi” signs. When she stops at a local diner for coffee, the waitress assumes Maggie is there for the annual casting call. The local theatre-The Crossroads -is holding auditions for summer stock. This brings back conflicting feelings for Maggie. Maggie loves the theater yet issues from her past caused her to reject acting and everything associated with it.
When Maggie decides to take a chance and audition for theatre and receives roles in multiple productions, she finds herself questioning the actions of the actors, the staff, and especially the director. Rowan MacKenzie, the elusive director, is an enigma. Temperamental, moody, evasive, and unbelievably handsome, he confuses Maggie. From their first meeting, Maggie can’t help but feel that he expects something from her. Something she cannot give.
As the summer wanes and Maggie prepares for her roles; she learns that not all is as it seems in Dale. Seemingly amateur actors are producing incredible performances. Magic fills the air; until Maggie digs deeper. Her being there is not a random act of fate but a deliberate calling that has pulled her and the others there. A calling that has the power to change all their lives for better or worse. If their willing to take a chance.
Spellcast is a magical jewel hidden in an unassuming facade. When I received this book for review, the excerpt promised me an entertaining paranormal read that I was sure would be lighthearted and fun to read. I found so much more. A modern fairy tale that speaks of second chances with love, heartbreak, redemption, hope, and of course, laughter. This book has stayed with me long after I read the last page.
I found that the story itself is pretty straight forward in it’s make up and delivery. While I enjoyed this fantasy tale, it’s the characters who breathe life into this story and elevates it beyond a simple PNR. Dynamic in their simplicity, Ms. Ashford has given us real people who could be anyone we know or pass by on the street. We can relate to them. Their joys, fears, wants, and needs are laid bare and we are allowed to share in their self discovery. The journey isn’t perfect and many of them have issues that need to be resolved. Rowan and his staff help them with these issues by casting them in roles they need, but not necessarily want.
The world building is superb with Ashford’s obvious love for theatre shining through. She describes the small town of Dale and it’s inhabitants to such perfection that you know it has to exist somewhere. With her delicate hints and clues of magic, we are swept away in Rowan’s theatre. That is the greatest aspect that sets Spellcast apart from other PNRs right now. Rather then taking the mundane and placing it in a fairy tale setting-Ms Ashford reverses the process and makes us search for the magic in her mundane world.
Our protagonists, Maggie and Rowan are very much alike. Both are intelligent, loyal, and secretive. Maggie hides behind jokes and sarcasm while Rowan hides behind his mysterious persona. I found myself laughing at Maggie’s inner monologue. She has an opinion about everything.
Alex was the kind of man who epitomized nice: pleasant face, friendly smile. If I wanted a recruiting officer for my cult, I’d pick Alex hands down.
I’m alone in the forest with my director, that’s all. A director who casts people according to the need and happens to a hairless hands-on healer who lives on strawberry milkshakes and only leaves the grounds of the theatre when he hikes in the forest to sing in tongues.
Told in the first person, we only see from Maggie’s point of view but Ms. Ashford takes pity on us and allows us to see Rowan’s thoughts by entries from his journal. I really loved the interaction between Maggie and Rowan. The tentative bonds of friendship are a joy to watch develop.
“There’s something I’d like to show you. In the woods.”
“Boy if I had a nickel for every time a guy used that line.”
“What I want to show you is a wonder of nature.”
“Yeah, that’s what they all say.”
The romance develops slow yet made all the more potent by that. Their fears are magnified by their attraction. We know they will get together, but the journey there is the real story. For all their supposed strength-they are both fragile people; unsure of themselves or each other.
“Blame me for losing control. For failing to shield you from my emotions. For letting you feel things you should have never felt. But don’t blame me for wanting you.”
The additional cast of characters add much humor and balance to Maggie and Rowan’s storyline. Filled with vibrant personality, these eccentric, quirky people offer up advice, laughter, and a shoulder to cry on.
The ending is a bittersweet. Beautiful and heartbreaking (yes, I cried) yet filled with hope so that you know the second book will bring you even closer to the characters and town you’ve grown to love. I cannot wait for the second book in this series and will definitely be adding Spellcast to my MUST READ list for 2011.