by Stephanie Burgis
Series: The Harwood Spellbook #2.5
Also in this series: Snowspelled, Thornbound
Publisher: Five Fathoms Press
Publication Date: February 14, 2020
I received an advance review copy of this book from Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Take one ambitious politician and one determined magician with wildly different aims for their next meeting.
Add a secret betrothal, a family scandal, and a heaping of dangerous fey magic in an enchanted wood…and watch the sparks fly!
For just one moonlit, memorable night, Thornfell College of Magic has flung open its doors, inviting guests from around the nation to an outdoor ball intended to introduce the first-ever class of women magicians to society…but one magician and one invited guest have far more pressing goals of their own for the night.
Quietly brilliant Juliana Banks is determined to win back the affections of her secret fiancée, rising politician Caroline Fennell, who has become inexplicably distant. If Juliana needs to use magic to get her stubborn fiancée to pay her attention…well, then, as the top student in her class, she is more than ready to take on that challenge!
Unbeknownst to Juliana, though, Caroline plans to nobly sacrifice their betrothal for Juliana’s own sake – and no one has ever accused iron-willed Caroline Fennell of being easy to deter from any goal.
Their path to mutual happiness may seem tangled beyond repair…but when they enter the fey-ruled woods that border Thornfell College, these two determined women will find all of their plans upended in a night of unexpected and magical possibilities.
I’m one of the many readers who’s been campaigning for an HEA for Miss Banks and Miss Fennell (aka Juliana and Caroline) since we first met them, and I am oh so happy this book is finally here! This novella is set not too long after the events of Thornbound, and since it references several events that happened in that book, I wouldn’t recommend reading it without having read that book.
“She’d been so young when her family had taught her not to expect any affection to last. But she’d come here to fight for what she wanted—and she did still know that Caroline wanted her, didn’t she?”
Since the events of Thornbound, Juliana’s buried herself in her classwork, partly because she’s delightfully nerdy, partly because she’s overjoyed to finally be learning magic, but mostly because she’s worried over the state of her secret engagement to Caroline. Ever since Caroline’s aunt retired (in rumored disgrace), her letters to Juliana have been… not very loverly. By tradition, politicians (all women) are expected to marry magicians (all male, with one exception), no matter what their personal proclivities are. Cassandra – that one exception – opened up the new Thornfell College of Magic, and it’s only by graduating from there that Juliana can hopefully provide the clout that will let Caroline advance to the highest levels of politics. A ball at Thornfell is the perfect opportunity for them to hash this all out face-to-face… or is it?
“I’ve spent all my life fighting to please the people who were meant to love me, and I can’t do it anymore. I have friends and colleagues now, and they’ve taught me to value myself higher than that.”
This is definitely a story centered around misconceptions where one good conversation would (and does!) clear everything up. The fun is watching the angst and determination of the two women as they try to do what’s best for the other, with the added complication of a Puck-ish Fae helper. Bookish Juliana is perhaps my favorite of the two women, by a slim margin. Scorned and misunderstood by her family for her interest in magic, she’s finally found a place she belongs at Thornfell – and all that’s missing is the love of her life. For Caroline, the realization that her path to political stardom is lost – through no fault of her own – doesn’t bother her as much as it should, or at least nowhere near as much as it bothers her family. Watching Caroline figuring out what she really wants was lovely. It was also wonderful to see the group of women students from Thornbound as friends working together – in one case, to properly attire Juliana before the ball.
Overall, like the previous books, I absolutely adored this one and will be eagerly awaiting whatever comes next for the residents of Thornfell. Highly recommended!