HelenKay: Witches. Werewolves. Vampires. If you love paranormal romance, times are good. If the creatures of the night leave you – ahem – cold, this might be a good time to think about the mystery/suspense section of your bookstore. With all those choices, both light and dark, the pressure is on authors to craft a work that rises above everything that’s come before. Being good isn’t good enough. Or, as here in My Favorite Witch, being good is entertaining and fun but maybe not quite enough.
Kira Fitzgerald loses her fiancee in the most popular romance novel way possible – she walks in and finds him having sex with another woman. That woman being her sister. Loser gone, she swears off men and commitment forever and focuses in on her work at the Pickering Foundation. With the job comes a free apartment and a hottie boss.
Injured and recovering hockey star Jason Pickering Goddard comes home to heal at the request of the grandmother who raised him. He dedicates six months to the Foundation and to filling the coffers of the Foundations charities through a serious of fundraising events. The main recipient being the St. Anthony Home for Boys. Jason expects hard work. He gets that plus a beautiful witch assistant. Happens to all of us. Or so you’d think by Jason "so what" reaction to Kira’s status as a witch. So long as she aims the wand elsewhere, he’s fine.
The book also touches on issues surrounding ghosts, crows, orphans, historic homes, sibling rivalry and dysfunctional upbringings. In general, there appears to be a lot going on here, but that’s not really the case. While the book follows Jason and Kira’s adventures in getting to know each other and working for Pickering, not much else happens. The conflict of the book centers on the convictions of both Jason and Kira to stay unattached and the determination of Jason to return to hockey and leave the Foundation behind.
From the beginning these two are attracted to each other and fall into comfortable and entertaining banter. The more time they spend together, the more sexual the interaction and play becomes, but the sensuality is mixed in with those touches of ghosts, crows, orphans, historic homes, sibling rivalry and dysfunctional upbringings, so that the attraction never catches fire or finds its spark. Their companionship feels good and right from the beginning, which makes for a light and amusing read, but one that does not escalate in conflict or carry much risk.
Kira and Jason are likable characters, as are the secondary characters and that even includes those adorable orphans. Kira is a witch, but that fact is not integral, or really even necessary, to the book. Jason’s vow to return to hockey changes, but that metamorphosis occurs off screen so that the reader is deprived of the opportunity to come along for the ride and feel invested. Characters from Blair’s previous book, The Kitchen Witch, enter and take center stage then leave again as quickly as they came. For those who didn’t read this first book, keeping up with the conversation, at times, is akin to being an insider listening in to a private conversation.
It is easy to get sucked into this world. The disappointment comes in that, once there, the pieces of the story don’t always fit together. And sometimes, as in the side story with the orphans, they fit too neatly. The we-must-save-the-farm-and-rescue-the-children feeling is at times charming, at other times spunky and sweet, and at still other times a bit too much.
Wendy: Quick like a bunny: how do you define paranormal romance? Vampires? Ok, they would absolutely defy scientific explanation. Werewolves? Yep, again. Time-travelers, fairies, gargoyles, ghosts? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Witches? Hmmm. If they were the sort of witches, like the sisters from "Charmed," with supernatural powers, then, absolutely, they belong with paranormal romance. What then of a white witch with no mystical powers to display, but a wand and a gift for rhyming spells? Would her story be a paranormal romance—despite the lack of the unexplained—or would it be a contemporary romance that was just a bit left of center?
Berkley Sensation says: contemporary romance. At least, that is, for Annette Blair’s My Favorite Witch. Perhaps, that’s because Blair’s heroine Kira Fitzpatrick isn’t magical. Or, because for all the time that is spent with the idea that Kira is a witch, little time is spent with the practice of witchcraft. Or, because of the too easy acceptance of those around Kira, including hero Jason Pickering Goddard, whose introduction to Kira comes mid-spell, and whose reaction is: The hot red-head is a witch. His response is akin to realizing that the same hot red-head was also, say, a Baptist, which is to say that it’s no response at all.
In addition to being a witch without a familiar or a coven, Kira is the newly hired event coordinator for the Pickering Foundation, and newly single thanks to sister Regan sleeping with Kira’s fiancé. Kira is in the midst of a little may-he-get-what-he-deserves casting when her new boss happens upon her. It is perhaps too convenient that Kira would choose to pull out her wand and chant incantations at work, but it eliminates the necessity of Jason—injured hockey star and reality t.v. celebrity recently named Best Kisser in America—finding out about Kira’s witchy ways in some convincing manner. Jason’s grandmother, Bessie, called upon Jason to help with the Pickering Foundation’s sagging finances, so despite his complete lack of experience off the ice, Jason is placed in charge of fundraising. Kira, despite her powerhouse resume, becomes Jason’s subordinate. Together they plan a series of fundraisers aimed at saving St. Anthony’s Home for Boys, the primary beneficiary of the Foundation.
Given her recent history, Kira has sworn off commitment and questions her ability to please/keep a man interested. And, yet, her heartbreak not withstanding, she is immediately and forcefully attracted to Jason. Jason too is a commitment-phobe, though his raison d’etra is not as clear. Nonetheless, Jason and Harvey— Jason’s name for his penis, which is about as believable as Jimmy Stewart’s invisible, six-foot, pink rabbit —respond to Kira like Pavlov’s dogs. Though they deny their attraction to one another, Jason and Kira are helped along by Bessie, who not only meddled and coordinated to bring these two together during work hours, but also arranged for them to opportunely live under the same roof. Yes, underwear clad, midnight encounters ensue.
Formula and contrivance aside, the real problem with My Favorite Witch is that each event Jason and Kira plan and attend reads as a vignette within the larger story instead of a natural progression of cohesive proceedings that steadily and gradually compound the conflict and stakes. Without this rise in drama, or risk, the scenes play out along a flat line.
My Favorite Witch is harmless, but also joyless. Many romances manage to work despite their flaws. This is not one of them.
HelenKay’s Question: We’ve read some hotter romances here at PBR. We’ve also read some sweet romances. This one staked a sort of sexual middle ground – sexual contact and sexual talk between Kira and Jason but limited scenes and descriptions. Did the level of sensuality leave you wanting more or less, or did Blair strike a workable balance?
Wendy’s Response: You call this middle ground and yet I read something elsewhere that intimated that there’s a lot of sex in My Favorite Witch. Interesting. While reading I didn’t spend much time contemplating the amount of sex, the number of encounters, or if the writing was graphic or not. I was aware of the lack of preamble leading to the encounters. Instead of scenes that built on a natural progression of events, a raising of the stakes, it often felt as though: ok, it’s time for some touching now. Without the supportive structure, there can be no balance.
HelenKay’s Final Thoughts: Entertaining tale that lacks depth.
Wendy’s Final Thoughts: My Favorite Witch does not enchant.