Marissa Doyle is a Massachusetts resident and has been nearly her entire life; she likes to quilt, and loves both water and history. The Bewitching Season is her first published novel, but she’s got a second one, Maiden Voyage, a sequel, coming out in the not-too-distant future. She describes her work as “historical and romantic fiction . . . with a magical twist.” Other than writing (and reading, and collecting books), quilting, water, and history, she seems passionate about rabbits, especially as house pets. Of course, after I found this blog, I can understand a bit why.
Penelope and Persephone Leland are the twin daughters of a viscount and granddaughters of a duke in 1837 England. Princess Victoria is nearly eighteen, as are Persy and Pen; they were all born on the same day. This means that the twins are about to make their debut into society. However, for the past ten years or so, they have been learning magic. Magic isn’t exactly a common pursuit in almost-Victorian England; it’s still possible that they might be burned as witches, or worse — cut off from society. Pen is rather excited about making her debut, but Persy — a bit shyer and more bookish — is not looking forward to social outings, until Lochnivar Seton reappears in her life . . .
Judging by the cover and the inside-front-cover matter, I thought this book was going to be profoundly silly. (I have no idea what possessed me to borrow it from my mother-in-law.) I was most delightfully mistaken; it’s an adorable post-Regency romp of mistaken ideas and equine appreciation. Persy and Pen are very like traditional Regency heroines, at least those written into romance novels from the twentieth or twenty-first century. Our hero is a very cravat-wearing, card-leaving, waltz-dancing, horse-riding Regency hero, and we fall in love with him almost before he appears on screen.
The characters are intriguing; Miss Allardyce is the twins’ governess and primary magic teacher, and we meet the rest of her family at an early point in the book. They run a bookshop, and I savored the scenes set there. Her younger sister, Lorelei Allardyce, is delightful as well; I’m certain that she will figure in the second volume. I liked Persy and Pen well enough, although occasionally I wanted to yell at Persy just to talk to her sister. Mistaken ideas — “he won’t love me because I’m ___,” “I can’t share this with ___!” — are a common romance novel plot, and while I normally find them a bit tedious, it was well-enough-handled in this volume to render it merely a source of tension, rather than a true annoyance.
I’d definitely recommend this book, especially to fans of Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline V. Stevermer’s Sorcery and Cecelia and its sequels. While The Bewitching Season doesn’t quite have the deft touch and humor of the Wrede-Stevermer collaborations, and while it’s not in epistolary/journal form, it’s got some of the same feel, and is, of course, set in nearly the same time. Yes, I understand it’s nearly twenty years later, but Society hadn’t changed that much in that time, in relation to behaviors. Fashion, of course, is another story. In any case, I’ll award the book 4/5 stars and be looking forward to the sequel.