Melissa St. Cloud is a Wiccan high priestess who is hired as a technical consultant for a TV show about witches. She experiences an almost immediate connection to the creator of the show, Alexander Quinn. Alex is wildly successful, but has spent most of his life searching for the father he never knew. Alex finally locates his missing parent only to discover that he had just passed away, but had left a legacy of diaries in which he imparts some shocking revelations. Melissa senses that Alex has been dabbling in the dark magic of his father, but can she convince him to stop before he loses his soul?
While the other stories in this anthology are primarily about werewolves and shape-shifters, Under Her Spell features witches and the practice of witchcraft, but it is not the fun Harry Potter type of fantasy witchcraft. Instead, Under Her Spell contains a very strong dose of Paganism (both the author and the heroine are Wiccan high priestesses), along with some horror movie moments involving black magic. None of this was really my cup of tea, and quite frankly much of it left me feeling rather creeped out. In fact, the synopsis didn't really interest me from the start, and I probably wouldn't have even read it except for the sake of completing the anthology.
Since the story itself didn't resonate with me, I couldn't really relate to the characters either. Alex and Melissa's attraction was too quick and magical to suit my taste, and the one barely-there love scene seemed to come from out of nowhere. I just never felt a connection between, or to, these two characters. I'm also not usually a fan of Hollywood types, and Alex is the creator of a TV show about witches, with Melissa acting as his new technical consultant on all things magical.
I would really have to agree with the show's head writer who expressed skepticism when he asked whether they were tying to produce a television drama or a Wicca 101 class. In all honesty, I felt like I was being given a lesson in Wicca all throughout the story. While I try to be open-minded about such things, I'm just not a fan of heavy religious messages of any sort in my fiction reading, especially ones that are so far removed from my own spiritual beliefs. In my opinion, the romance really took a back seat to the witchcraft in this story. If nothing else, I suppose Under Her Spell was an appropriate read for the current Halloween season, but it just wasn't anywhere near as enjoyable as the other three stories in this anthology were for me. Aside from my lack of connection to the characters and their narrative, which I suppose is partially due to personal preferences, the writing itself seemed to be pretty decent. This was my first read by Maggie Shayne, but if she always includes such a large dose of her religious beliefs in her writing then her works may not be for me. Under Her Spell is found in the Midnight Pleasures anthology.
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