Broomsticks & Stones by Jane Davitt – review

Rating: 7.5/10 ★★★★★★★½☆☆ Title: Broomsticks & Stones
Author: Jane Davitt
Genre: Romance, Fantasy
URL: Torquere Press
Price: US$1.95
Other Information/warnings: explicit m/m, naughty words
Summary (from author):
Set in a modern world where magic is a regular part of life, Broomsticks and Stones is the story of young lawyer, Peter Carruthers, who is entrusted with a task involving the delivery of a gem to Scotland, to be handed over to the new head of a clan.

Traveling by broomstick in a blizzard, Peter crashes and is lucky enough to find shelter with Jamie MacGellis who, when he finds out what Peter plans to do, has ideas of his own for the gem — and for Peter.

My Review:Lady Amanda, Head of the Family Cullum, has died, and Peter Carruthers, junior attorney at the family law firm, has been enlisted to embark upon an important mission: deliver the “Luck,” a magical garnet to be bestowed upon the Cullums’ new leader, to a great gathering of the Clan which is deciding just who that new leader shall be. The problem is, Peter must deliver it by magical methods. No car, no train, no Federal Express.

Blessed with — in his own summation — less than remarkable magical powers, Peter sets off, confident that he can fulfill his legal responsibilities; yet, less sure of his mode of transportation: a broomstick. When he becomes lost in a blizzard and crash lands just miles short of the Cullum Castle, he is taken in by Jamie MacGellis, an alluring man who has some magical gifts of his own.

In what seems to be only moments, Peter finds himself bewitched by the man, making him wonder if there isn’t something more to Jamie than meets the eye. Indeed, a spell has been cast, and when Peter finds himself naked in Jamie’s bed the next morning, it becomes clear that each have their secrets, their fears of becoming what the fates seems intent upon thrusting upon them. Perhaps Peter landing at Jamie’s doorstep was not the accident it seems to have been. Could it be that Jamie has a vested interest in the election of the new Head of the Cullum family? And could Peter truly have been made nothing more than a pawn in a political chess match of a centuries old family?

First and foremost, I must admit that I am generally not a reader of fantasy works. On my forays into the genre I have most often found myself lost in a hopeless maze of locations and characters with complex — and strangely similar — names, taxing histories of who was begat by whom, and mixtures of spells and abilities that have, by and large, left me bewildered and a bit frustrated. So keep in mind as you read this review that I am not well versed in the genre and am not basing my reaction to the story from any in depth understanding of the trends or expectations in the genre.

That having been said, in Broomsticks & Stone, Davitt manages to create rich, vivid characters without ever becoming buried under the back-stories of the world in which the piece is set. From the moment the story begins — Peter discussing a golf game with his boss — we get a clear, concise picture of the world in which Peter not only works, but in which he lives. We also get to see who Peter is at the core. He is lawyerly, but not viciously so, knowing that a day on the links is as necessary as looking the other way when the firm’s largest client uses a wind spirit to tip the game in his favor.

There are mentions vampirism, of the Thames being changed into undrinkable champagne, of the “Transmogrification Accord” and the “Vicount of Altringham” scattered throughout the piece, showing us that Davitt has thought out her world thoroughly. Yet, she never feels compelled to cram the entire history into this particular story. The result is that I, as a reader, an intrigued, curious to learn more about the world when the time is right. Additionally, in an expert economy of words, Davitt creates minor characters — Lady Amanda, Mr. Cullum, Scott Perlham — who we can picture immediately in our minds, giving enough to fill in the pieces so that we understand the politics and the history of the Cullum clan without ever need to be spoon-fed the information.

Where the charm of the story takes full effect is in the relationship between Peter and Jamie. One really gets the sense of two opponents draw to each other, yet circling each other, trying to find out what exactly is afoot. There is something attractive about mystery, but something dangerous as well. You’re never quite sure where Jamie stand, what his angle might truly be, and that makes for an interesting juxtaposition of romance and possible villainy. The dialogue between these characters is the heart of the piece, a careful dance peppered with lust and caution. Never, though, does the dialog fall to the level of juvenile or saccharine or trite. It is an intelligent tête à tête that smoothly dips into a tête à tête amoureux as the characters begin to trust one another.

There are a few extremely minor gripes I have with the piece. I wish the shape-shifting elements of the story had been foreshadowed a bit earlier. This, however, is more than likely reflective of my newbie status to the genre that a true criticism of the story. I found the shape shifting elements to be a bit jarring and perhaps if I’d known about them sooner, I would not have had such a reaction. But in the end, I settled into that element, especially considering that that aspect is integral to the development of the primary characters. There is also an odd use of semicolon throughout the story which I found to be a bit distracting, and the piece end a little too “Happily Ever After,” for my taste, but that is a personal thing.

So, as far as fantasy goes, is this a groundbreaking piece? I am far too ill-read in this genre to be any judge of that. However, I found Broomsticks & Stones to be extremely charming, accessible and fully realized story that is written in a beautiful and engaging style. It definitely makes me want to read more of Davitt’s works and learn more about the world(s) she has created.