I’ve read two books in the Fates series by Kristine Grayson, and each time I end up with one question in my head.
“What did I just read?”
I like her books, I really do. I’m just not sure why I like them. They’re fun. They’re smart enough in the ways that matter to me. I love the way she approaches fantasy. But although I’m satisfied by the end, I feel confused without having a solid question. I’m hoping that as I read more in this series, I’ll finally be able to figure it out.
Utterly Charming by Kristine Grayson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This isn’t really a romance novel. Well, it is, but it isn’t.
First of all, the description is a bit off. Nora Barr is hired by Sancho Panza to guard a woman Alex Blackstone, a wizard, is trying to keep from her evil step-mother/mentor. It’s pretty clear from the start that something should happen between Alex and Nora. The problem is, I’m not sure why they should.
Before I go on, I do want to make it clear that I liked this book.
Nora is the best thing about this story. She believes just enough to be willing to go along with Sancho and Alex’s plans, but not to the point where she loses her cynicism and doubt. She’s no starry-eyed girl, wowed by a wizard. In fact, I loved how the novel started out with a conflict I thought was interesting: she has a fantastic mind, trapped inside a petite body that screams high school cheerleader. Her baby-face and smallness make her job as a lawyer more difficult, at least in the beginning when she’s still in her twenties.
Emma, the girl in a glass coffin, is also very well-written. Instead of being eternally grateful to Alex for keeping her from dying all that time, she’s furious. He’s a very powerful wizard. There had to be a way to break the spell, especially given the fact that she was asleep for one thousand years. She has a point, but it’s never really explored.
However upset the modern world makes her, though, Emma keeps trying to learn. She sees Alex’s offer to help her through magic as a superficial solution to a very serious problem and tries to live in the modern world without relying on him or his magic. It’s a pretty bold move, and she doesn’t do half bad.
Those are the best things this novel has going for it, and they’re strong enough to carry it as a fantasy novel with a bit of romance.
But that’s not how this is advertised. It’s supposed to be a sweet romance. It kind of is, but not really.
Again, I liked this story. It was interesting enough to keep me reading, it had some great scenes and some great lines, and it had enough romance to satisfy me.
The hero is the biggest drawback to this book. It’s not that he’s annoying. He’s not. It’s not that he’s a jerk. He’s definitely not. Incompetent at times, maybe, but not a jerk. I’m not entirely sure why I couldn’t root for him. He’s a typical romance hero, at least when it comes to a physical description. Though he seems like an alpha, he’s really not. He seems to be passionate about Emma, but he’s really not. In fact, I don’t get the feeling he’s passionate about much of anything. Maybe that’s the problem.
I really wish I could have been introduced to his perspective early on in the novel, just after he’s met Nora for the first time. I think that might have helped. Maybe.
Finally, for those who are curious, there are some sweet moments between Nora and Alex. I liked them. Others, however, who are looking for a bit more heat and definitely a full-fledged kiss in the first third of the book (instead of almost at the end) might be disappointed with the lack of typical key moments. The brief touches (nothing risque), awareness of each other, and emotional angst were enough for me. (Still, I really wish I could have been in his head earlier in the book.)
One last time, I liked this book. I think I’ll be reading the rest of the series, if only to catch up to Wickedly Charming.