Book Review | Merely Magic | Patricia Rice

Beware of mixing magic and science. Book Review | Merely Magic by Patricia Rice.

Beware of Mixing Magic and Science

The legend of the Malcolms and the Ives is a powerful warning not to mix science with magic. 

“ An Ives once tried to force his Malcolm lady to deny her heritage, and it nearly destroyed the village.”
Grandmama, Prologue, pg 2, para 1

Within the Leaves of Merely Magic

This book was originally published in 2000 by Dutton Signet.

Descended from a maternal Druidic line, Ninian Malcolm Siddons’ gift of empathy aids her as the Village of Wystan’s local healer and midwife.

Though her healing abilities are readily called upon by the villagers, Ninian discovers after her Grandmama passes away the local ‘witch’ is not accepted as a member of village society.

Feeling isolated and alone in her late Grandmama’s cottage, she tries to get herself accepted as one of them by putting the needs of the village before her own.

“While all was well and she helped the needy, they tolerated her. She could see with her own eyes that all was no longer well, and the word “witch”, had risen with last nights wind.”
Narrative, Ch 11, pg 97, para 6

Her Grandmama’s retelling of the Malcolm family legend instills in Ninian the foundation of the villagers superstitions. It is her own families tale which warns of many disasters that will befall the village if a Malcolm woman mixes with an Ives man -  the family who owns the castle and lands that stand above and around the village.

Ninian herself is not concerned about the possibility of getting involved with any Ives man. For many generations Castle Wystan has stood neglected and vacant. 

Until Lord Drogo, the Earl of Ives and Wystan shows up at the castle with three woman in tow. One of them pregnant and in need of Ninian as a midwife.

While at the castle tending to the Lady, Ninian and Drogo fall into lust with the help of a love potion brewed up by one of the other ladies. 

“Your sore and still feeling the effects of Sarah’s mischief-making. I’ll not take advantage of you again.”
Lord Drogo, Ch 9, pg 85 para 13

Though Lord Drogo, coming from a male line of brilliant scientific and logical minds, doesn’t believe that sleeping with Ninian may cause any more harm than being forced to take her as a wife if she is pregnant, Ninian believes in the legend.

Finding herself with child, she is forced into an unwanted marriage with an emotionally distant Lord. Her marriage is also seen by the villagers as the cause of the water turning bad, the village flooding, the plants dying and the villagers falling ill.  

Are the warnings in the Malcolm and Ives legend coming to pass again?  

Sweet-Tea Rating for Merely Magic:

Sugar Lumps

I not only enjoyed the many strong characters in this book, but also the depth to which they take on their chosen responsibilities. Working towards the greater good for others, and the personal sacrifices made to simply give of themselves appealed to me.

The Cast: 

The first thing that comes to mind in describing Ninian Malcolm Siddons is compassionate. Though she is aware of the villagers distrust of herself and her own distrust of the family Ives, she freely lends her gift of healing and knowledge of herbology to any one who needs it.

She has a lively, curious mind which is firmly rooted in Druidism. Her intelligence and stubbornness lead to some very lively verbiage throughout the book.

The Ives men only bear sons and whether legitimate or born on the wrong side of the blanket each male possesses a creative and inventive mind. 

These geniuses come up with many ideas and inventions throughout the story that both help and hinder the situation.  Some of the devices create very amusing surprises for the reader.

“Joseph fought the beginning of a grin as he glanced around at the chaos of toy models covering the sofas and chairs.”
Narrative Ch 16, pg 142 para 8

The Malcolm women only bear females and each one born into the bloodline is blessed with a unique magical gift. They certainly do not hide being different! 

The scientific and logical minds of the Ives men and the magical, spiritual natures of the Malcolm woman make for a very captivating cast of characters.

Character I would most like to share a Cuppa with:

I would love to sit and share a cuppa with the Duchess of Mainwaring. The eldest of the Aunts and head of the Malcolm family, Stella has an optimistic view of the world that I quite agree with. 

“The more positive energy we generate, the stronger we will be.” 
Aunt Stella, Duchess of Mainwaring , Ch 25, page 220 para 8

Element Ratings for Merely Magic

Story Flow: 

The story is such an easy page turner, I barely noticed the time passing by. 

The introductions to both the Malcolm and Ives families as well as the legend that was the basis of the story, were thoroughly woven into the beginning of the book and made the rest of the story easy to understand while reading. 

The only difficulty I found with the flow had to do with the dialogue. Both Ninian and Drogo are such strong characters that their long standing disagreement - science vs magic - becomes almost monotonous and frustrating to read through.

Nail Biting: 

The getting these two together part was no secret. Drogo’s vow took care of that.

“If you carry my child, as you claim, we’ll be married in a church, in London, with friends and family as witness. The child will be an Ives, not a Malcolm.”
Lord Drogo, Ch 13, pg 121 para 7

The nail biter here was whether or not they could come to terms with each other to have a quality relationship. This was the part of the story flow that dragged a bit, but it sure made for an entertaining read as it developed. 



“... Ninian remembered why she had fallen into this man’s bondage. He not only possessed the temptations of the devil, but he also possessed an open mind that did not exclude her as so many others did.”
Narrative, Ch 18, pg 161, para 4


“Just her smile had the power to jolt his heart into mindless clatter.”
Narrative, Ch 27, pg 240, para 5

Drogo and Ninian are both very strong characters who eventually discover how to share their weaknesses with one another.

Their strengths and weaknesses balance each other out nicely and I am optimistic for them.


“The kitchen maid returned bearing firewood, which crashed to the floor upon the sight of an earl in the kitchen stirring pudding and dandling a babe on his shoulder”
Narrative, Ch 29, pg 258, para 2

When we first meet the Earl of Ives and Wystan we get a small glimpse of a romantic whimsical side. But it disappears quickly and is easily forgotten as we see through most of the story a cold, logical and stoic man instead. 

Drogo takes care of and protects any person who comes into his circle. Though he gets grumpy about it, he will do whatever it takes to see them all cared for. 

We see the man start to thaw out a bit and actually start to make jokes! It took almost 36 chapters (Drogo is a very stubborn character), but in the end he opens up to be one heck of a swoon-worthy specimen.

Emotion Coaster: 

The emotion I carried with me throughout this read was amusement. I was thoroughly entertained by the whole story. There wasn’t much of an emotion coaster ride here, but that by no way made it a boring tale. 

Hot-Tea Rating for Merely Magic:

The love scenes are not overly graphic and there is plenty of internal dialogue to give you a play by play into their emotions and fill in some of the blanks.

The Last Drop:

I really enjoyed this book. The characters were rich in personality and well developed. The science vs magic aspect made for lively discussion points and amusing antics. 

It is a love story that brings together two very different ways of thought and belief and does so in a lively, entertaining and plausible manner.

It’s not a perfect book, but it is going to be sitting in my personal library for a very long time.

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