Sunday 9 March 2014

Bespelled by Dani Kristoff

Bespelled by Dani Kristoff is a paranormal romance novella by an author who has had less racy books/stories published under the name Donna Maree Hanson, including Rayessa and the Space Pirates, which I reviewed last year.
Elena Denholm is a mild-mannered half witch. As a favour to her cousin, she agrees to meet with top Sydney lawyer, Jake Royston, to negotiate a property deal. Sparks fly immediately, but before they can even take a sip of wine, let alone explore where the sizzle might go, Jake is hit by a love spell and is helpless against his feelings for Elena.

Jake may be at her mercy, but Elena is keeping her hands off — exploiting humans is a no-no. But Jake’s good looks and powers of persuasion are breaking down her resolve, and Elena knows she must do something fast.

Desperate to set things right before her resolve crumbles, Elena begins a frantic search to find the witch or warlock who hexed Jake and return him to his right mind, even if it means breaking her own heart...
I have to admit, my eyes skipped passed this cover entirely the first time I saw it because it looks like a straight Romance and the title doesn't suggest paranormal that strongy (although yes, it's implied, especially in retrospect, but it's not like "witch" is in the name). And, thinking about it, those models look nothing like the characters, especially the guy who spends a lot of time in a suit in the book. If you're curious, I don't have much interest in reading straight Romance, because I prefer to have some spec fic elements to add something extra to the plot. Bespelled does this admirably. Although the romantic element comes in at full throttle fairly early in the book, it does so for magical reasons (a malicious love spell) which remain central to the plot throughout.

I liked Elena, the main character. I found her relationships with people in her life, particularly her family, to be believable. She was abandoned by her mother and spent the first thirteen years of her life raised by humans, until her aunt found her. Then, as a half-witch, she doesn't fully immerse herself in coven life. She has a pro-human activist streak in her, but it wasn't exaggerated or very prominent to the story, which I liked. It adds to the layers of her character. Jake was a bit less developed, mainly because he spent a large portion of the book under a love spell and hence out of his mind. But he does end up having some unexpected development. I won't say more because spoilers.

There are a lot of steamy scenes in Bespelled and I found them quite well-written. Sometimes the language in detailed sex scenes can be unintentionally comical — ruining the moment — but I didn't find that to be the case in Bespelled. I was generally impressed with the book overall. I would recommend Bespelled to all fans of paranormal romance, especially those that enjoy some coherent plot between the sex scenes.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: February 2014, Escape Publishing
Series: Not yet?
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

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