Twilight Magic
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Twilight Magic by Shari Anton had a lot of potential as a trashy romance novel. The story encompasses several of the standards of romances—misunderstandings, murder, a forced marriage—and it even includes a hint at the supernatural. Unfortunately, several of the plot points and characters aren’t fleshed out well enough, so the book sort of falls flat.

It’s 1145 England, and Emma de Leon finds herself at court. Her father and brother were allegedly traitors who died in an insurrection against the king. As punishment, Emma is forced to live at court. Her older sister, Gwendolyn, is forced to marry a man of the king’s choosing, and their youngest sister, Nicole, was exiled to an abbey. Emma believes her free-spirited younger sister is languishing and miserable in the nunnery, so she tries to get the king to release Nicole.

But Emma is also clairvoyant. If she stares into still water, she sees visions of the future. However, she hates this gift and can stop the visions once they start—but doing so gives her crippling migraines. Emma realizes how dangerous it would be for her to divulge this gift, so she keeps it to herself.

Darian of Bruges was born in Flanders (modern-day Belgium). As a young child, he saw his entire family murdered by raiders—so, once he came of age, Darian joined a group of mercenaries, vowing never to get close to anyone. He’s stationed at the same court as Emma, and, one night, he’s accused of murder. Darian refuses to give an alibi, so Emma steps forward and claims that she and Darian had spent the night in question together. This, of course, isn’t true, but Emma had a vision that she and Darian would one day become lovers, so she felt compelled to save his life. But since she had admitted to fornication, the king forces Emma and Darian to marry on the spot.

The two leave court—Darian trying to clear his name and Emma set on saving her sister. During the trip, the two naturally fall in love, but they don’t say anything to each other. Darian thinks he’s too lowborn for Emma, and Emma thinks he doesn’t care for her, since he always seems so distant. Eventually, Darian and Emma consummate their marriage. The love scenes are short and rather bland, and Anton uses the actual anatomical names for the various body parts. Whenever an author does that, I instantly dislike the scenes. Part of the appeal of trashy romance novels is that they’re fantasy and not real—and seeing the real words is (to me, at least) such a buzz kill.

At the very end, Emma and Darian travel to her home, Camelen, where they meet up with her sister, Gwendolyn. There, Gwendolyn divulges a huge secret. While the secret itself is massive, and Anton clearly wants the reader to feel it’s an integral part of the story, it comes way too late to really be of any use to the plot. Instead, it just seems like an afterthought or a poorly planned red herring. The big secret could have been used to Anton’s advantage, to create a real blockbuster ending, but she just doesn’t quite pull it off. And although Emma’s visions were utilized pretty well, they definitely could have been used better—and the same goes for Emma’s search for Nicole.

All in all, Twilight Magic is a decent book, but it could have been a great book, if only the author had pulled all the plot points together better. Since this book is part of a trilogy, though, I’d be interested to see if the other books in the series are any better.

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