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Casting Spells    by Barbara Bretton order for
Casting Spells
by Barbara Bretton
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Every summer Sugar Maple Vermont is overrun by tourists eager to sample the pastoral beauty of a town that many believe has somehow lost itself in some strange time warp and is peopled with citizens who seem to have stepped off the pages of a glamour magazine. If anyone dug deeper, they'd discover that the town is protected by another kind of glamour, one that was set in motion hundreds of years before during the Salem witch hunts. All things in Sugar Maple are just the way its otherworldly citizens like it - until the day the suspicion of cold-blooded murder clouds the town.

Everybody agrees that Suzanne Marsden's death was an accident - she'd wandered onto unstable lake ice, fallen through and drowned. Case closed. No need for outsiders to come nosing around. But state police aren't convinced Suzanne's demise was an accident. When Detective Luke MacKenzie rolls into town, Chloe Hobbs' radar goes on high alert. She'd expected a seasoned, middle-aged investigator, not this hunky and handsome specimen who's sending off strong vibes of being Mr. Right. As acting mayor of Sugar Maple, Chloe's been told to nip the investigation in the bud and send the cop packing.

Chloe tries her best, but the more she pushes Luke the more he digs in his heels - and not just because he's determined to solve Suzanne's murder. The lovely mayor intrigues him on all levels - even if one or two of those levels are truly weird, including actual sparks flying from their fingertips when they touch. As for Chloe - what's a half human, half witch to do when she's caught in the middle of a showdown between otherworldly enemies determined to claim The Book of Spells as their own. It's a showdown that's been a long time coming and that could very well destroy Sugar Maple and all its otherworldly townsfolk.

Bretton's stories are always engaging confections, but this time she liberally sprinkles her tale with fairy dust as she casts her hat into the paranormal romance ring. Casting Spells is the first in her new series featuring the quaint little town of Sugar Maple and its large assortment of supernatural citizens. Alternating between Chloe and Luke's first person points of view, readers are quickly swept into the everyday lives of the townsfolk.

Chloe and Luke are marvellous leads: she runs a very successful knitting shop while also trying desperately to understand why her magical abilities haven't kicked in yet so she can save her town from the sinister machinations of fairy queen Isodora. And Luke, while determined to solve a murder and win Chloe's heart, can't quite decide if he's really hearing a banshee wail each night or why he keeps having all these near-miss accidents. If you're in the mood for a thoroughly charming story that heralds the introduction of a light and engaging new series, then pick up a copy of Casting Spells.

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