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I'm a big fan of Patricia Rice's Magical Malcolms series -- I love the idea of two families who are so ideologically different in that Capulet vs. Montague way (minus the tragedy), and, yet, every so often, will have their sons and daughters meet, find common ground, and fall in love. I was so pleased to see that she is revisiting these two families, and moving them a few generations forward.
Magic in the Stars is the first book of Patricia Rice's Unexpected Magic series, and features Lady Azenor Dougall and Lord Theophilus Ives. Like her Malcolm forebears, Azenor (or Aster, as she prefers to be called) shares the same magical talents -- in her case, she is very, very accurate with reading the stars, allowing her to understand people's characters based on their birthdays, and charting their futures. After not heeding her own readings, which resulted in tragedy, she's learned her lesson -- and she's on her way to Iveston, despite the distance, inconvenience, and the weather, to warn the current generation of Ives men of the impending doom that she has read in their charts.
Instead of finding Malcolm Ives, the current Marquess, Aster comes face to face with Lord Theo, Malcolm's younger brother and heir. Aster already knew that convincing the Ives men of what she has read would be difficutl: Malcolm magic and Ives logic have never, in so many generations, agreed on anything.
What's interesting is that both Theo and Aster are interested in the same area: the stars, but they approach it from different disciplines: Theo is an astronomer, and is working on creating a telescope with a greater (and clearer) lens to prove the existence of more planets. He's been trying to get funds to build an observatory, so he could prove the existence of Uranus and of other planets beyond.
Aster is into astrology, and uses the same maps and charts -- the same findings from the Royal Astrological Society, but it is to understand human nature and to predict and prevent catastrophe. There's an instant recognition of shared interest, but an equally instant recognition for the differences in their world views.
After Aster shares her readings of his brother's charts, Theo is skeptical, but also curious about the passion and persuasion that drove Aster to travel by herself to Iveston to tell them of what she read in the stars. Aster is also very, very beautiful -- and, for the first time in a very long time, Theo is interested and attracted.
When something does happen to Malcolm and he becomes incapable of managing the Ives' estates, Theo is thrust into the limelight -- and he understands that he needs to work to secure the succession -- unwanted, unwished-for territory for him. He enlists the help of Aster, to help find him a wife who would understand the Ives temperament. It's, honestly, ironically clear from the beginning that Aster and Theo belong together -- and Theo realizes this. So does Aster -- but Aster has long believed that she brings doom and destruction to anyone who dares get close to her.
This is one aspect of Aster's life that I couldn't quite accept: did her family really believe that Aster brought doom and devastation to those who dared to live near her? I really felt bad about how she had to live away from her family, and how she had to make sure her companions didn't stay with her for longer than a few months at a time. I know that the Malcolms are an eccentric family, but, surely, they would not allow one of their own to be so isolated from her family? This is one of Aster's major hang-ups, which defines how she views the world. Theo isn't really the best partner, but, because he is willing to stay with Aster, despite of the danger, Aster is willing to compromise (and set aside her doubts and misgivings) to be with him.
Theo doesn't seem to know why he wants to be with Aster. In the beginning, I could see that he recognized a kindred spirit -- someone who stood calmly in the midst of the Ives chaos. But, his stance slowly changes, and he leans on his physical attraction to Aster when he is confronted by Aster's idiosyncrasies. For a man who is challenging astronomy, by saying there are planets beyond those that have been found, I couldn't understand why he couldn't see the value of what Aster does.
Here lies my problem with this story: I didn't like that he would dismiss Aster's concerns as hoaky. I didn't feel there was enough conversation between our hero and heroine about finding a middle ground, or finding a bridge between the world of astronomy and astrology. Instead, the author created a pattern: something bad would happen, Aster believed it was because of her, and Theo would distract her with kisses. This carries through to the end, when, Theo's problems at the Iveston estate are resolved, but Aster's is all up in the air.
I enjoyed reading this story, but there were a lot of gaps and questions that keeps me from loving this book.
Magic in the Stars is Book 1 in the Unexpected Magic series. To find out more about Patricia Rice and her books, click below: