In a surprising turn, I might actually be a fan of historical fantasy/paranormal romances. Spellbound is the second such book I’ve read this year (three if we count The True Queen) where I slip easily into the story and never fight the setting. The worldbuilding in Spellbound is complete and unobtrusive, so there’s never a sense of missing a detail or puzzle pieces that don’t fit. But the best thing about the book is actually the relationship between Arthur and Rory.
Arthur is a wealthy, connected, non-magical man with strong tendencies towards being overprotective. In spite of being a “mundane” (non-magical), his friends are very magical and are working with him to help keep evil magic from destroying New York. However, he needs the help of a very specific type of magical person, and that person happens to be Rory, a reckless and vulnerable recluse who fears that his magic may overtake him and leave him in a vision or drive him mad. Anyway, there’s some plot.
Because I favor the relationship story over external plot any day, the resistance these two put up on their way to falling in love is my everything. Rory can’t believe that someone as handsome, cultured, and charming as Arthur would actually choose poor, orphaned, awkward him. And Arthur can’t imagine that talented and brave Rory would choose someone as privileged and predictable as Arthur.
Except here’s what really got me. I am a very overprotective person and I felt rather exposed reading Arthur. There are all these people that Arthur cares about and all he wants is for them to be safe and because he has the means, he wants to protect them. Then, Rory barges into his life and, for the first time, someone wants to take care of him by making him coffee and cooking. The role of caretaker is flipped and shared, and there’s some lovely plot about Rory binding himself to Arthur. (Read the book please.)
A lot of the tension in the romance is built around neither Arthur nor Rory thinking they deserve each other, while also worrying about whether the other is interested in men. Most of the time this works, but it can also feel a bit worn when Rory is worried that Arthur, with all his money and prestige, couldn’t want someone like Rory again. But this is a minor quibble for me because the insecurities are honest, even if they could have been settled earlier.
My biggest issues with the book (and they are minor) are the scenes when Rory is scrying an object. For some reason, these dragged for me, possibly because of the tense change that threw me out of the story a touch. Also, there’s so much emotion in the rest of the book that these emotionless and omniscient visions feel stark in comparison. This makes up so little of the book that my biggest issues are very minor compared to everything I loved.
With that said, this book is adorable in a sort of gritty way, but not too gritty. It’s a strange balance, but done well. Spellbound reminded me of a Jordan L. Hawk book with a bit less gore and violence.
Content warnings: dead mother, violence, crappy father (described), past in an asylum
Margrethe received a digital copy of this book for review from the publisher via NetGalley.