This Book had so much potential and I was so in love with the concept that I'm devastated that alas it didn't live up to it. The basic premise is that there is a slightly alternate Regency England where the Ton despises Wizards as much as Trade, maybe more. Then you have a Hero who as a young boy was sent to a school that beats a love for magic and wizards out of you and a heroine who is proud to be a wizard. Wonderful unique Idea with the makings of great conflict right? Well I had hoped.
There is no doubt that MJP is a power house of historical writing talent, the prose was wonderful and the historical details great but the emotions and conflict felt lacking.
I think the first place she went wrong was in the prologue. I think it focused too much on the friendships Jack formed at Bizarro Hogwarts and not enough on the emotional consequences and the horrors of the place and what it would do to him. Introducing a group of friends that might indicate that there are sequels to come is fine but not at the expense of needed emotional backstory. He says he hates magic and the school did that to him but you never really feel it.
Next the way they ended up married is groan worthy and I think the author realized it too. Abby has always had a crush on Jack from a far. Then Jack is brought to Abby's father's house dying from a hunting accident. After some talking and debating and Jack agreeing to be treated with magic. Abby makes marriage the price of her services. Oh come on what is she thinking! I thought. Then MJP must have thought it too because a few pages later the character says, that was so wrong what was I thinking. Her explanation though isn't sufficient to erase the bad taste already there.
And then there is even more back peddling when she tells him she won't hold him to it but he say no that's ok you seem like you'd make a good wife and you saved my life let's go ahead with it. Where is the conflict in that? Where is that prejudice against magic that is supposedly so great he branded an anti-magic spell into his skin? Neither her bargaining for the marriage or his agreeing to it seemed in character at all.
Through his recovery Jack is way too excepting of her and her wizardry given his background and supposed feelings on the subject. And again it was like the author realizes that and then suddenly there is a scene where he blows up about magic. But as it turns out NONE of the feelings that caused even the slightest conflict including his feelings about wizards were even really his, they were planted by his father and the headmaster of the We hate Magic school. So what little conflict there was killed by that revelation. It was almost as if she was making that rookie mistake where you love your characters so much you really don't want them to have anything bad happen to them.
Prejudice is an uncomfortable and tricky thing and it felt to me like it seemed like a good idea in concept by she got too spooked to really write it into the book like it should have been. What spooked me though was that fact that the woman he almost married the season before looked just like his sister and mother. That's just creepy. But she was sufficiently bitchy and mean like all jilted lovers should be.
I will admit that the conflict with Jack's sister and Brother in Law was quite well done. I think a book focused on that story would have been more what I was looking for in this one. You felt his pain and dislike for magic, your hurt for the her and the problems caused by their infertility. They were real tough issues there.
Even with the external conflict of the evil step father at the end the resolution seemed just too easy. Never once in the book did I feel like any of their problems were insurmountable and I wanted them to be. I wanted to feel like that was no way he'd ever be excepting of her or any way she'd be happy with him. I want more than two people in all of London Society to make it hard for them and I wanted to step-father to seem more unbeatable.
I really hope she tries again with Ashby or another of Jack's friends and gets it right next time. It really is a great idea.