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REVIEW: Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas

Again-the-Magic

Dear Ms. Kleypas:

I’ve told this story before, but I’ll mention it again here because it might be the reason why I adore Again the Magic so much. About ten years ago, over Thanksgiving Day dinner, my Dad calmly announced that he’d be having triple bypass surgery the next week. My sister and I made immediate plans to drive down to North Carolina to be with my mother during the surgery. The day of surgery, after wishing my dad well and telling him we loved him, we were sent to an incredibly uncomfortable little waiting room, where we’d wait the four hours for his surgery to be complete and for him to moved to the ICU where we could visit him. We were in the waiting room about five minutes and my mom decided she needed to walk the hospital halls. My sister went with her, as I stayed in the waiting room just in case we received an update. As I sat waiting,  I pulled Again the Magic out of my bag and began to read. Aline and McKenna’s love story took me away from the terrible nervousness and offered me a comfort that was profound enough that I re-read the book once a year, just because it is now so beloved.

Lady Aline Marsden understands her duty. She’s been raised by a tyrannical father and a negligent mother for the exclusive purpose of making an advantageous match. She spends her days growing up learning to run a household. But during her free time, she spends as much time as possible with John McKenna, a stablehand who was saved from an abusive father during his childhood and brought to Stony Cross Park to act as a houseboy. As he’s gotten older, he’s risen slightly to the rank of stable hand.

When the book opens, we find McKenna sneaking into Aline’s room. He and Aline have been constant companions since childhood, but now that companionship is building into something more. McKenna loves Aline wholeheartedly, but he also knows that she is far beyond his reach. Aline doesn’t care a wit for convention and only wants McKenna to kiss her. When McKenna arrives in Aline’s room, he finds that she is deeply put out with him for kissing a local village girl. For McKenna, a mild flirtation; for Aline, a betrayal to her young heart. As they fight, Aline pushes McKenna to kiss her, he refuses and she finally lays one on him. He’s blown away by the beauty of that kiss, but knows that he can not allow things to go any farther. He threatens to leave Stony Cross Park if Aline doesn’t forget immediately all about her future plans, which include forsaking her heritage and being only with him.

Of course, the lovers kiss again, and this time, they’re seen by Aline’s younger sister, Livia, who tells their father. Aline is called to her father’s study, where her father tells her McKenna will be gone from the estate the next day, and that if he returns, her father will use his considerable influence to ruin McKenna’s life. Aline knows the only way to make McKenna stay away is to make him believe that she has had a change of heart. When she sees McKenna she is cruel, although her heart is breaking, and sends him from her with no hope that she would welcome his return.

Shortly after McKenna leaves, Aline is in the kitchens and is caught in a fire that leaves her legs badly burned. Twelve years later, Aline’s father is dead, and her brother Marcus is now Lord Westcliff. Aline and Livia both still live at Stony Cross Park, with Aline acting as hostess for Marcus, who has yet to find a bride. Marcus decides to host a house party for the purpose of courting Mr. Gideon Shaw, one of the Shaws of New York, a nouveau riche American family to invest in a new business venture. When Aline goes to greet the American traveling party, she realizes immediately that one of the men in the party is McKenna.

McKenna, now a self-made man with millions, has come to Stony Cross Park for one reason, and one reason only: vengeance against Aline for breaking his heart so cruelly. He comes home to find Aline much changed. Oh, she’s still beautiful, but she’s reserved. He’s decided that his course of action will be to seduce her then leave her as heartbroken as he was. But as he begins his chase, he finds himself still seduced by this beautiful woman who already broke his heart once. Aline has no idea why McKenna is at Stony Cross Park. She’s cautious of him and remembers enough about him to realize that he’s probably not just there to do business. She’s had no other love of any sort since McKenna and she’s never stopped loving him. But she has secrets too, she knows that McKenna could never love half a woman, which is how she feels since her injuries.

The book features a trope that I have great affection for: forbidden lovers. Even more, there is a tremendous sweetness to this book. McKenna is definitely an alpha hero, and yes, he starts off wanting vengeance, but he backs away from that plan quickly as all of the feelings he had for Aline come rushing back. Aline herself is a really delightful heroine. She’s smart and accomplished and an excellent hostess. She’s also been sheltered by her well meaning family and is deeply afraid of McKenna finding out about her injuries. They have a wonderful chemistry that you establish right from the beginning of the book. The love scenes are really well written (a true gift you have) and build upon each other intensifying the growing relationship between McKenna and Aline. The book features the BRG (Big Romantic Gesture), and it’s one that makes my reader’s heart swoon. McKenna’s declaration of love is one that I adore reading over and over. The story also features a really lovely secondary love story for Livia, Aline’s sister, who also has a tragic past. All in all, it is a really satisfying historical novel, one that I think doesn’t get mentioned nearly as often as Dreaming of You, or the Wallflower series. I hope that this review will remind readers of how much they enjoyed your older books and prompt them to pull them off their bookshelves, or tempt readers who have only read your contemporary work to give your historicals a try. Either way, Again the Magic is a true favorite of mine. Final grade: A-.

Kind regards,

Kati

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Kati Brown

I've been reading romance for more than 30 years and reviewing regularly for the last five. My first romance was Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts, and once I read it, I was a goner. I read most subgenres of romance (except inspirational and steampunk) but focus mostly on contemporary and paranormal, with a sprinkling of historical thrown in for flavor. I am an avid sports fan, so I have a special place in my heart for sports themed romances. I'm a sucker for old skool romance, which is probably most evident in the fact that The Windflower is my favorite romance of all time.

20 Comments

  1. Kathleen
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 11:21:02

    Thanks, Kati, I enjoyed your perspective! Again the Magic isn’t one of my TOP Kleypases, but it is so perfectly heart wrenching. I agree about Mckenna’s declaration of love: one of those scenes when talking about, ahem, *other women* only affirms the hero’s devotion to the heroine. Wonderfully counterintuitive.

    I think the main reason it’s not one of my very top Kleypases is because I was so intrigued by the secondary romance!! I wish Livia & hero had gotten their own novella.

    …Actually, even writing this comment I’m remembering how dang good this book is. I LOVE the trope of the hero who intends revenge/destruction but is foiled by his own emotions for the heroine. I also found Kleypas’s switcheroo of “who’s the most damaged” really skillful and surprising. I may have to go reread immediately.

  2. Willaful
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 11:22:01

    I have a similar story about The Shadow and the Star. I’m glad to see this book get some love — one of my earliest introduction to Romancelandia was everyone ragging on it, while I was going “but… but… ” silently…

  3. Julie @ Manga Maniac Cafe
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 11:23:59

    Sold! At 3.79 for the Kindle, I couldn’t resist. Thanks for bringing the book to my attention; I don’t think I’ve read her before.

  4. Amanda
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 12:34:33

    I admit that this is not one of the Kleypas historicals that I go to most often to reread but I did like it and this review has got me in the mood to revisit Again the Magic. The bonus is I actually know where its located and will not have to deshelf all my books (they are triple shelved) to find it.

  5. Lada
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 13:29:18

    Thanks for sharing your experience with what I think are the best things about romance: escape and guaranteed HEA. I can’t think of a better time to make use of that than a hospital waiting room.

    Again the Magic wasn’t one of my favorite Kleypas’ (she has so many to choose from, after all) but I did enjoy it for many of the reasons you mention. I’m a sucker for loving sibling relationships and I recall this book featuring that. The sisters were great but I especially recall that it was Ailine’s brother (the current Earl) who really helped her get over her fear of McKenna’s reaction to her scars. I think it was a little out of character for him and his love for his sister overcame his natural reserve which made the scene all the more poignant.

    Thanks for the revisit, Kati. I hope readers who missed early Kleypas might discover her many wonderful historicals.

  6. Nancy
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 13:43:46

    I read Again the Magic for the first time a few months ago. I didn’t enjoy it as much as you did, which is odd because, with a reunited lovers and revenge plot, it has all the makings of a perfect-for-me book. But like @Kathleen, I found the secondary romance the more nuanced and intriguing. I would have liked to see Aline and McKenna spend more time getting reacquainted, as they had both changed so much in the time apart. Whereas, Livia and Gideon’s romance demonstrated two people getting to know each other, learning to trust the other, and having each make the other a better version of themselves. Sigh.

    I also could not stand how long Aline waited to tell McKenna about the fire. Usually I’m pretty understanding about characters holding onto secrets, but when Aline kept hurting McKenna instead of revealing her own insecurities, she was cruel and selfish and I couldn’t look past it. But thanks to Livia and Gideon’s story, I did find the book an enjoyable read.

  7. chris booklover
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 16:43:00

    @Nancy: Nancy: Thanks for this comment. I felt the same about Aline. She was cruel to McKenna not once but twice. The second occasion was one of the most heart-wrenching scenes I have read. He is left with tears running down his cheeks after making a passionate declaration of love. If the roles had been reversed and he had treated her in this way he would have been required to grovel for a LONG time before she forgave him. As written , however, McKenna is not allowed to remain angry with Aline for more than five minutes after she visits him at the end of the novel.

  8. Madeleine
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 17:57:48

    Again the Magic isn’t remotely close to my favourite Kleypas …. but it’s Kleypas and therefore about 350929 times better than most authors at their best.

  9. Divya
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 18:15:39

    I’m in the minority in this…but AGAIN THE MAGIC is my favorite Kleypas (tied with IT HAPPENED ONE AUTUMN), for all the reasons you listed in your review. This was also my first Kleypas, so that might be why. :) If I could make one improvement, it would be that Livia and Gideon have their own book!

  10. Janine
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 18:27:41

    I haven’t read this one because a friend with similar tastes in historical romances really didn’t care for it. I should give it a shot, but she called it Again the Cliche!

  11. Mary Chen
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 21:01:10

    Great review, Kati, and I’ve really enjoyed this too. :)

  12. Kaetrin
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 23:52:06

    I have this book but I’ve never read it. I remember hearing about how awesome Kleypas historicals were and I bought a few from a UBS. The one I tried was an early book which had been revised and reissued – it was set in New Orleans and she pretends to have amnesia but I don’t remember the title. I hated it so I never got around to trying any of the others.

    I did listen to a Kleypas a while back and it was okay but it didn’t blow me away – it wasn’t Derek Craven’s book but he was a character in it (again, can’t remember the title).

    I love Blue-Eyed Devil and Smooth Talking Stranger and I’m really looking forward to Jack’s book – but I’m a bit dubious about trying any more historicals.

    @Kati – How did your dad’s surgery go? (I have been in that little ICU waiting room too and it’s no fun).

  13. SAO
    Apr 30, 2014 @ 00:28:42

    What’s with the cover? I don’t seem to remember a potato sack race in the book. (Read it on a Kindle and never saw the cover).

  14. Ros
    Apr 30, 2014 @ 05:33:58

    @SAO: That really is one of those covers where the more you look at it, the weirder it gets.

  15. oceanjasper
    Apr 30, 2014 @ 07:59:06

    I remember devouring this book the first time I read it, but then towards the end really wanting to slap some sense into Aline, and ultimately feeling that McKenna deserved better. Occasionally (well, quite often really) I find myself embarking on a stereotypical romance novel scene I’ve read a hundred times before and really wishing that for once the author would turn it on its head. In this case when Aline comes after McKenna following her cowardly rejection of him, I really wanted him to tell her no thanks, it’s too late, you’ve caused me enough misery, but have a great life…..

    I really like a lot of Kleypas’ other historicals but this one just went off the rails for me, after being good for most of its length.

  16. Ducky
    Apr 30, 2014 @ 09:33:16

    I read this one a while ago. I did enjoy the second romance more than the main pairing.

  17. SonomaLass
    Apr 30, 2014 @ 12:30:01

    @Kaetrin: That sounds a lot like my experience with older Kleypas historicals. I heard good things, and then the couple I tried were okay, but not great. Still, if this one is reasonably priced for Kindle, I think I’ll get it. Thanks for the review, Kati!

  18. AnimeJune
    May 01, 2014 @ 08:13:08

    Lisa Kleypas’ Wallflower books were some of the first romance novels I ever read. While I eventually tired of her particular writing style (she’s like Wes Anderson – if you hated one of her books you will hate ALL of them, including the ridiculously TSTL Mary Sue from Dreaming Of You), I do remember how she helped get me hooked.

    That being said, I can’t help but laugh at this particular revenge. “I know just how to get back at her! I will torment her with ORGASM AFTER ORGASM! I DON’T SEE THIS PLAN BACKFIRING AT ALL!”

  19. Willaful
    May 01, 2014 @ 09:58:10

    @AnimeJune: I think that’s still topped by the classic HP hero’s decision that the best way to keep the woman he thinks is a thieving whore in line is to marry her…

  20. Krista
    May 01, 2014 @ 14:56:45

    This wasn’t my favorite LK book, but it does have some great re-read scenes.

    Dreaming of You and Then Came You are two of my all time favorites.

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