Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle
I’ve been trying to write this review for a couple of weeks, but it’s been difficult because I think what follows will make it seem like I hated Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle when, actually, I didn’t. Nor do I think it’s a bad book, just unsatisfying, a little too superficial (in an I kept waiting for the author to do more with her characters and story kind of way, not a post-Regency/pre-Victorian lemonade-at-Almack’s brand name-dropping way because the latter thankfully does not apply to this book, a point in its favor), and without the need-to-keep-reading! compulsion that elevated a book like The Luxe.
Persephone Leland is not looking forward to making her debut. She’s shy, awkward with strangers, and, she thinks, not as beautiful as her twin sister, Penelope. Sephy would rather practice magic and study instead. Even the reappearance of handsome Lochinvar Seton does not persuade Sephy that going to London for the season will be enjoyable. But when Sephy and Penelope’s governess mysteriously disappears, it seems they and their younger brother, Charles, are the only ones who can find her and stop those who are a threat to the Princess (soon to be Queen) Victoria.
So here’s what kept me from enjoying Bewitching Season. First, Sephy and Pen often call their brother Chuckles instead of Charles, which constantly made me think of the TV show Chuck, probably not the best thing to be thinking of when reading a book set in 1837. My problem, not Doyle’s, and something I would therefore overlook, except I liked Charles. I wanted more of Charles’ interactions with his sisters and less Sephy pining for Lochinvar. Because Lochinvar was a nice guy, noble and idealistic, but he also didn’t have much of a personality. I’m all for reading about nice guy, beta males*, but he was the least interesting male character in the book. Which may be nice for Sephy, but considering how essential their romance is to the story, did not make for very compelling reading. Especially when there was a secondary romance and the male character in that subplot was so much more intriguing.
Also problematic was Sephy’s use of magic. It too often seemed a convenient ploy, a vehicle merely there to advance the plot instead of providing a simple demonstration of her ability, though this was not the case with some of the other characters. However, Sephy is the main character. Her magical abilities should have been better integrated with her character and the story. Finally, the description of how Victoria became heir to the throne was confusing. It was a complicated situation but could have been explained better, especially since I don’t think most of this book’s readers will be familiar with it. (I took AP European History and I still had to go look up Victoria on, um, Wikipedia.) Otherwise, Doyle did a pretty good job with history and the setting. I’ve read better historical fantasies (like Patricia Wrede‘s Mairelon the Magician and Magician’s Ward), but I’ve also read much worse novels with historical settings. Ultimately, while I don’t think too much was going on in the book, I do think Doyle didn’t explore what was going on as well as she could have.
For a completely different take on Bewitching Season, read The Book Muncher’s review.
* I don’t think Lochinvar’s role is large enough to qualify as a male protagonist and I hate referring to protagonists in romances as heroes and heroines, hence beta male.