Review: Courtship and Curses by Marissa Doyle

4 out of 5 delighted stars

The Leland Sisters series has been a strange series. First of all – it is right up my alley. Early Victorian/Regency era setting with magic. Hello! However, this isn’t a linear series – it reads more like a companion series. The first, Bewitching Season is the Leland twins, Persy and Pen, who are both witches, but focuses on Pen (for my review, click HERE). The 2nd, Betraying Season, focuses on Pen, and Persy is out of the picture (for my review, click HERE). This is the third and it goes back in time to focus on another witch, young Lady Sophie and her friend, Parthenope, who will be the twin’s mother. The story takes place during Napoleon’s second reign and it factors into the story.

Lady Sophie has come to London for her coming out, but sadly, she has to face it without her mother, but with a pair of querulous aunts. Her father is too busy with the war office, and still wrapped in his grief. Two years previous, her mother and little sister died from an epidemic of what they think was flu. Sophie also became sick, and it settled into her leg.** It twisted and wasted so she walks with a limp. Not only has she lost her ability to dance but also her magic, the remaining thing that linked her to her lost mother and sister. Of some comfort to her is Amelie, or Madame Carswell, a French ex-patriot who was married to Sophie father’s best friend. But he passed away and she has come to stay with them. Amelie is a wonderful cushion between Sophie’s aunts, Aunt Isabel who constantly reminds Sophie of her limp and suggests she will be lucky to get a second son or a half-pay officer to “take her.” Yes, I wanted to punch Aunt Isabel in her pruny old face. Then there is Aunt Molly, sweet but pretty clueless as to fashion suitable for a young girl, and more interested in potted plants than people.

While trying to navigate her first ball, Sophie hears herself talked about. This isn’t the first time. Everywhere she goes, she hears whispers. Some people have assumed that she must be slow witted. One person says she heard the girl had a hump. So she’s not feeling at her best when she meets a young man who said he had hoped to meet her. Tall and handsome, Peregrine Woodbridge is there in time to play the hero when Sophie’s father and another man from the war office are almost crushed by a falling bust. When he saves her father, Peregrine ends up falling on her. Through this misadventure, Sophie meets his cousin, a pushy, bossy young woman named Parthenope. She’s very confident and lovely and doesn’t give a fig what other people think. She makes a mess of their first meeting, not knowing who Sophie is or that she has an infirmity. Thinking she was injured by her cousin, Parthenope goes off in search of her mother to take her home.

Well the next day, Parthenope comes to visit and apologizes, because she did not know about Sophie’s mother. Sophie also tells her that she was not injured, that she has a limp that is never going to heal. Parthenope doesn’t care. And she doesn’t pity her. This is a wonderful basis for a friendship, and it’s probably my favorite part of the book .

It turns out, the thing with the bust falling on her father isn’t the only near miss. Men from the war office keep having accidents. And Sophie can sense something magical in all of it. Her magic, which has been very spotty, seems to be getting stronger. Along with her regard for Lord Woodbridge, who clearly returns the feeling. She’s not the only one having a romance. Out of nowhere, Aunt Molly’s lost love has returned to London. A Frenchman, he says he is in the employ of the King, waiting near London until he can return to France.

I loved so many of the characters. This is definitely my favorite of the trilogy. The drama between all the love interests was wonderful. There were some ups and downs that were well done, unlike the other books. The magic was great, and the drama around the English and the war against Napoleon was really well done.

** Regardlng Sophie’s illness, there is an author’s note in the back that talks about Sophie’s illness, Almack’s and the way people with physical disabilities were treated. It’s been clear through the whole series that the author has done her historical research, and she talks about maybe doing a book about the patronesses of Almack’s one day. I would like to read that.

Also – look at this gorgeous book, jacketless.

Sadly, even the Galaxy S5 can’t capture the majesty. This thing is PINK!!


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