Again the Magic has all of the trademark Kleypas smolder and charm, but a plotting issue which I feel gets in the way of the novel’s success and frustrated me again on my recent re-read; however, I have returned to the secondary plot several times as it has one of my favourite heroes and is, with The Heiress Effect, the romance for which I really wished a separate novella, or novel, had existed for the heroine’s sister.
Meeting as children, Lady Aline* Marsden and stable boy John McKenna were friends and then lovers (short of consummation) in their teens. Their secret was discovered and they were separated by her dastardly father. McKenna went to Brighton and, later, New York. Aline stayed home with her sister, Livia, and her brother, Marcus (of It Happened One Autumn). In addition to the emotional blow of losing McKenna, Aline suffered a terrible accident which permanently disfigured her legs. At 31, she has never married and does not intend to. Livia, also unmarried, is still at home because her fiance died and she miscarried their child. First in a socially and then a self-imposed exile, Livia is just about ready to return to the land of the living.
With this set up, McKenna returns to the Marsden’s ancestral home. In the delicious manner of all Kleypas heroes, he is filthy rich, gorgeous, and sardonic; he also happens to be hell-bent on exacting revenge on Aline. You see, she pretended to reject him as beneath her to make him leave. McKenna’s plan is not a great one, just to “use her and leave her”, but the reader knows that these star-crossed lovers are going to get a second chance. The problem with Again The Magic is that he’s just so grumpy and she’s so stubborn. Her friend actually, specifically, accurately describes McKenna as “sturm” and Aline as “drang”. While their denouement was absolutely swoon-worthy, this is Kleypas after all, they were an annoying couple; HOWEVER…
Traveling with McKenna to the Marsden house party is a blonde god of an affluent American, Gideon Shaw. Seductive, proudly louche, and complicated, he and Livia run into each other and the spark is instant. The amount of love story and chemistry that Kleypas gives them in their brief appearances slayed me. I adore Gideon. He is a high-functioning alcoholic who is aware of his problem, but unsure of what to do, or if he wants to or is, indeed, able to do anything about it. Kind and wry, Livia changes his perspective, not because she magically heals him, but because he realises how much more he can have, if he becomes healthy. I found his character incredibly charismatic and alluring in the way that an alcoholic can be only be in a romance (or Thin Man) novel. Livia and Gideon’s love story did yeoman’s work of helping me get through the main plot. They were so sweet together, without ever being overly so, that I found myself waiting for them to reappear and engage me in the story.
A complete summary of Lisa Kleypas’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.
*Aline – Being uncertain of the author’s intended pronunciation of this name is the pebble in the shoe of my reading experience of Again the Magic.