Lucy March, a.k.a Lani Diane Rich, might be a new favorite romance author for me if the potential of where she could go beyond “A Little Night Magic” is any indication. I was charmed by this novel’s blend of quirky chick-lit humor, magical realism, and dynamic character interactions. The story follows Olivia Kiskey, a waitress at a coffee house who discovers that her life isn’t everything that she thought it was.
Frustrated by the life she’s been living in her town, Olivia decides to make dramatic changes, starting with buying a ticket for a spontaneous trip to Europe. Her wish for “change” comes closer to home with the appearance of a strange woman named Davina in the diner and a close encounter with an unknown assailant in the middle of an alley. Soon, Olivia discovers she can wield magic – turning inanimate objects into motive ones (like a trash can lid into a dog) and moving objects with her concentration. It’s a revelation she’s not prepared for, nor is she prepared to learn that her life is in danger due to her newfound abilities. It comes at a time when things in Olivia’s life are a little more than complicated – her friend’s getting married, her relationship with her longtime crush Tobias is getting more complicated, and her magic seems to be changing the people and landscape around her. Olivia has to come to terms with her past and present trials in order to avert the danger to herself and the people she loves.
I’ll first say that the author has a wonderful command of witty, sarcastic humor. I always say a good book gives you moments of laughter in times when you least expect it, and “A Little Night Magic” had plenty of moments when I chuckled at the commentary. That allowed me to connect a bit more to the characters, who are somewhat characteristic of a romcom. Olivia is quite ditzy, but she’s the kind of heroine you end up following because you want her to get the guy and stay out of some of the crazy situations she finds herself within. Davina is a mysterious woman who seems to know about Olivia’s abilities and guides her along steadily all while the reader may not be clear as to who she is. Betty is an elderly woman who tries to guide Olivia in the right direction (quite a feisty tone about her that I really enjoyed). Tobias is a decent romantic hero (loyal, strong, willing to do what he can to help Olivia), and as for Peach, Millie, and Stacy, they complete the heroine’s close circle of friends that are interesting to watch.
All that said – this isn’t a heavy novel by any measure of the word or one to go into with huge expectations. Rather, it’s a light read that one could take with them in sips or gulps with respect to the cute manipulations of magic, sweet inserts of romance (Olivia and Tobias are great in their push-pull dynamic), and steady revelations building to the story’s climax. The story holds intrigue with the reveal of Olivia’s past and when her circle starts to fall apart. I saw some of the darker revelations coming, but I wasn’t disappointed because I followed for the overall journey. While the beginning and middle parts of the book were strong, the ending gets a bit rushed, including an awkward transition to a sensuous scene. It felt like the scene was placed there, rather than allowing the dynamic of the characters’ relationship to ease into a more appropriate context.
Still, when the whole of the novel is considered, I thought it was a nice offering for its respective genre. It makes me want to read more of her work for the future, as well as delve into some of her works in the past. I would recommend her for fans of Sarah Addison Allen and Jennifer Cruise, as the whimsical style and content are a bit reminiscent of those respective authors.
Overall score: 3.5/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher St. Martin’s Griffin.