DeAngelis, Camille. Petty Magic: Being the Memoirs and Confessions of Miss Evelyn Harbinger, Temptress and Troublemaker (2010). 320 Pages. Crown Publishers. $24.00
Evelyn Harbinger sees nothing wrong with a one-night stand. At 149 years old, Eve may look like she bakes oatmeal cookies in the afternoon and dozes in her rocking chair in the evening, but once the gray hair and wrinkles are traded for jet-black tresses and porcelain skin, she can still turn heads as the beautiful girl she once was. Can’t fault a girl for having a little fun, can you?
This is all fine and well until Eve meets Justin, who reminds her so much of a former lover that one night is no longer enough. Eve’s coven has always turned a blind eye to her nighttime mischief, but this time they think she’s gone too far– and they certainly don’t hesitate to tell her so. Dodging the warnings of family and friends, Eve must also defend her sister, Helena, when another beldame accuses Helena of killing her own husband sixty years previously.
As the evidence against Helena begins to pile up, Eve distracts herself by spending more and more nights– and days– romancing Justin as her former self. There are so many peculiar ways in which Justin is like Jonah, her partner behind enemy lines in World War II and the one true love of her life. Experts in espionage, Jonah and Eve advanced the Allied cause at great personal sacrifice. Now Eve suspects that her Jonah has returned to her, and despite the disapproval of her coven and the knowledge that love with a mortal man can only end in sorrow, she can’t give him up. But can she prove it’s really him?
There are many misconceptions of which I must disabuse you, but the most offensive concerns the wands and warts and black pointed caps. Some of us may be wizened and rather hairy in unfortunate places, but we’re certainly no uglier than the rest of you lumps.
I’ve had an extraordinary run of luck recently; books which I picked up impulsively have, by an large, been good. This was another impulse grab, as it was sitting on the “new” shelf when I was getting some books I’d put on hold. I don’t exactly regret checking it out, but I don’t feel I’d have lost anything by not reading it, either.
I have some mixed feelings about this book, in part because there seem to be two very different stories being told at the same time; Evelyn and Justin, Evelyn and Jonah, and Evelyn and her family and history. In some way, the two overlap; Evelyn’s history revolves around Jonah, and what they did together, and in some ways they are completely different stories.
I didn’t particularly like Evelyn, and I didn’t care much about her plight. She’s a creepy old woman with a taste for younger men which she actually gets to indulge in because she uses magical “oomph” to make herself appear young, but she can’t maintain it for long enough to have a real relationship, so instead she has one-night stands. She begins to think that Justin– the grandson of a local pawn shop owner– may be her previous lover– and love o f her life– Jonah, reincarnated.
There are some clever things going on here; ancestors join the family on holidays by possessing marionettes, there is an enchanted gingerbread house which shows where everyone is, and witches have power– called “oomph” which is not a term I liked much– which runs down like a battery, and only rest can recover it. These things all make it fairly unique. However, Evelyn’s theory that Jonah has come back as Justin– and that she, as an old woman who is tricking him into thinking she is young and pretty still should be with him– is a rather weak premise. The flashbacks to her time with the actual Jonah were much more interesting to me. I would rather have read about that, it was, I think, the best part of the book.
There were too many characters here. There is Evelyn, and her sisters, and her nieces, and her cousins, and her cousin’s children, and all the other women in her coven and their children and it was just too much sometimes. While a longer life-span means that there would naturally be more people in her family tree, I just didn’t care that much about Evelyn’s extended friends and family. They didn’t add all that much– except the feeling that she was doing something illicit, which Evelyn seemed to love– and could have been cut back a bit to strengthen the story.
When all is said and done, I didn’t hate the book, but I didn’t love it, either. I would have loved to read about Evelyn and Jonah adventuring, and didn’t care all that much about Evelyn and Justin. Because of that, I can only give it a 2.5, though I think in this case it is a much more personal rating– based on my ability to connect with the story– rather than with its merit as an actual book.