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It Started with a Movie – or Why I Read/Love THIS ROUGH MAGIC


I was nine when Disney’s The Moonspinners released. I don’t remember reading the credits before, but I do remember noticing that it was based on a novel. That intrigued me and I headed for the library. I found the book, noted that the author had other books (SCORE!) and checked it out. I remember some reluctance from the librarian, but she didn’t stop me.

I LOVED it. The books was, no surprise, way better than the movie adaptation (though I still “heart” Haley Mills). And went back for more. So why isn’t this post about The Moonspinners?

Because I wanted to write about This Rough Magic.  (Grin) Here’s the official blurb:

“When Lucy comes to Corfu to visit her sister, she is elated to discover that the castello above their villa is being rented to Sir Julian Gale, one of the brightest lights in England’s theatrical world. As a minor player in the London theatre herself, Lucy naturally wishes to meet him—that is, until her sister indicates, with uncharacteristic vagueness, that all is not well with Sir Julian and that his composer son discourages visitors, particularly strangers. Yet Lucy has already encountered Sir Julian’s son on the morning of her arrival, in a tempestuous run-in that involved the attempted shooting of a friendly dolphin. First published in 1964, this spirited novel will hold Mary Stewart fans breathless as it uncovers a series of mystifying and frightening events, tinging the otherwise sparkling setting of Corfu with dark hues of violence.”

One reviewer mentions that Stewart is known for her “unique combination of danger and delight.” That really sums up the Mary Stewart experience. She invites you into a world that seems charming, with a fun setting, but usually there is no sense of danger (though you know it will come. This is a Mary Stewart, after all.). So you read on, waiting for it. Sometimes it hits fast. Other times the build is slow. Like a distant storm slowly moving in.

old cover for THIS ROUGH MAGIC

My first copy of THIS ROUGH MAGIC. Notice that price?

The romance is usually understated, too. You’re not always sure who will be the romantic hero and who will be the villain. Even though I know the outcome—I’ve read the book multiple times—I still feel that peculiar delight at the sheer mastery of her storytelling. The way Stewart uses words, the way she wraps the strands of the plot around the characters—and the reader—until it seems like there is no solution. And then she wraps it up and I close her books with a happy sigh.

She also made me enjoy The Tempest more, when I “met” it in high school. LOL

new cover for THIS ROUGH MAGIC

My replacement copy. I’ve only had it a couple of years…

I wanted to be Stewart when I grew up. I’m not Stewart. My writing style is very different and usually involves a lot more humor, but she taught me about the power and menace in silence. She taught me about writing strong characters and misdirection to multiply surprise. About pushing my characters to their limits and beyond. And she taught me about ending with a bang.

Stewart’s books are old friends. When I’m feeling blue or have a cold, I love to revisit her classic tales. Yes, I am a re-reader. I don’t know why I find it interesting that she wrote her first book the year before I was born and that she was also married to a geologist, but I do.

Are there are authors, or other creatives, that inspire you? Have eased your woes or propelled you to greater creativity? Please do tell. All comments are entered into my monthly drawing for an AnaBanana gift basket. And February is a short month! Winner will be announced in my first blog post of the new month.

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Perilously yours,

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“…don’t count on intermissions, you’ll want to read it straight through.” Midwest Book Review

Last Enemy cover art

Cover art design by Ana Baird

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