Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Sevenfold Spell by Tia Nevitt

TITLE: The Sevenfold Spell
AUTHOR: Tia Nevitt
PUBLISHER: Carina Press
LENGTH: Novella
GENRE: Fantasy erotic romance
COST: $2.69

Talia and her mother earn their living through spinning, but when a curse placed upon the princess drives the banning of all spinning wheels in the kingdom, their lives are irrevocably changed. Talia’s future becomes bleak when the man she’d expected to marry is ordered by his father to join the monastery. She decides to take her future into her own hands, but that means inviting speculation about her morality and breaking royal laws…

When I bought this last fall, it was because it promised to explore a minor (or nonexistent, since she’s not specifically mentioned) character in the popular fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. It’s not categorized as a romance or even erotic, but within a few pages from the start, it’s clear that’s what it is. This revelation didn’t bother me, because the more I read, the deeper I sank into the story.

Talia is a Plain Jane, complete with warts, and would have few prospects at finding a husband if she hadn’t already decided she’d take what she could get and befriended a farmer’s son at the market. Willard is as plain and awkward as she is, and she spends more time listening to him than really getting to know him, but still, they’ve decided they’re going to have each other regardless of their appearances. Then, all the spinning wheels in town are collected and destroyed, leaving Talia and her mother without the means to earn a living. Willard’s father, who was already not happy about Willard’s desire to marry Talia, orders him to join the monastery, and Willard isn’t strong enough to say no. With her only prospect leaving town, Talia makes the choice to get whatever future she can from him – a child. They become lovers for the time before Willard has to leave. Thus marks the beginning of the rest of Talia’s life.

It’s probably inevitable there will be some spoilers as I talk about this story. It’s not long, and it’s a very untraditional romance in a lot of ways. When Willard leaves, Talia throws caution to the wind and opts to find pleasure wherever she can. That means she has sex with a lot of men. Most of it isn’t detailed, but some readers might take issue with the fact that she does it. I didn’t. By that point, I loved Talia so much that I just didn’t care (though I doubted I would care anyway because I don’t hold most fictional characters to such puritanical standards).

This story proves that it’s not just the fairy tale princess that gets the happy ending. Talia’s life isn’t an easy one. She becomes the town pariah with her affairs, and she struggles with self-esteem issues. There are struggles over how she and her mother will survive, and her anxieties about her childlessness. Talia’s attitude toward marriage and children might aggravate readers looking for a contemporary heroine, and though she certainly exhibits modern sensibilities in her owning of her sexuality, this is most definitely set in a fairy tale world. In the context of this story, it made perfect sense, and in fact, endeared her to me even more. She is far from perfect, and she makes a lot of mistakes, but all of it succeeded in making her more realistic, and as a result, I fell head over heels for her. Since the story is told in 1st person from her perspective, its success lies primarily with the reader being able to feel for Talia. I did. A lot.

The fairy tale as most people know it dances in and out of Talia’s tale until finally binding with it for the last third. I loved the ways they intersected, especially in how human so many reactions were to events out of the characters’ control. When I reached the end, I had a happy tear in my eye. That is not metaphorical. It filled me such strong feelings of hope and satisfaction that I promptly went back to page one and read it all over again. Fairy tales have evolved into lessons for children, offering the happy ending as the reward for doing good or resolving the conflict. This is the grown-up’s version. It embraces all sides of what makes us human, warts and all, and provides just as much of an fantastic escape as any of the classics did when I was a child.

This is the first of a series for the author, though it’s the only one currently available. When more show up, I’ll be first in line to get them.


9/10 – Though not what I was expecting, I devoured this


5/10 – He’s absent for a good portion of the book, but what we got of him, I thought was both sweet and promising


9/10 – Loved, loved, loved her. I might not have agreed with some of her decisions (and is probably the only reason this isn’t perfect) but I understood what motivated most of them

Entertainment value

9/10 – Ended this with a happy tear in my eye, like the best kind of fairy tales can do

World building

7/10 – The fantasy milieu of the fairy tale realm was credible, but I often had questions about the set-up for Talia and her town throughout the first 2/3’s of the story



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