Her parents always thought she was a Changeling. Her godmother, recognizing her otherworldliness, dubbed her “Elfa” during her christening. Throughout her childhood, she communed with the woods and buried herself in books. But when she learns that her father intends to force her older sister to wed their neighbor in exchange for a disputed forest, Elfa knows she must act. After all, Caroline is in love with another man. The only sensible solution is for the quirky seventeen-year-old to convince the Duke of Lynchester to marry her instead.
Well, I’ll get one confession over with right away. I decided to read this book because of its cover. Having reviewed several other Cartland books, I’ve found her writing wildly inconsistant and have been irritated by her overuse of “breathless elipses.” It has been difficult to bring myself to read another of her novels with so many other tempting titles at hand.
However, there is something about Enchanted‘s cover: a dreamy, blue, forest setting with the nymph-like blonde heroine in a pool of water. It made me imagine that Enchanted departed from Cartland’s boiler-plate Regencies. The magical moonlight, the nude Elfa, and the half-disrobed hero in the background promised a more unrestrained and, to quote the title, “enchanted” effort.
The hero, appropriately named Silvanus after the god of the trees, is another of Cartland’s jaded rakes who must be reformed by the love of the right woman. He is different than most, however. He is immediately captured by the otherworldly girl who intercepts him on his way to propose to Caroline, daring to offer herself instead. Amused, he acquiesces to her plan as the only sensible option.
Although Elfa is certain she is inferior to her beautiful sister, she is determined to do the best she can to please and honor her new husband. Yet, she is also very young, and to Silvanus’s surprise, totally unprepared for the physical relations that are expected between a husband and wife.
Ready to be patient, Silvanus begins to know his bride. He is astounded by their easy communication. Whereas his other lady-friends have been frivolous, Elfa is unique. Her boldness allows her to converse with him as an equal, to tackle any topic, and to speak with wit and erudition. It is almost as if he has married one of his cronies.
Cartland allows the protagonists’ relationship to grow as gradually as possible in a 151 page book. A number of vivid, detailed, and memorable scenes allow her to establish more intimacy between Elfa and her husband than she has in previous books. The fact that the main characters are married also allows Cartland to be ever-so-slightly more explicit in her sex scenes. Although when anything more than a kiss is involved, there is a quick fade to black, the sensuality of these moments makes an impact.
I am labeling this book not merely “Regency” but also “Supernatural-Historical,” because although there are no ghosts, vampires, or shape-shifters, there is a kind of magical connection between the “god of the trees” and the “nymph of the forest” that goes beyond realism–even the realism of a regular romance novel–and crosses into the realm of magic.
In this case, you can judge a book by its cover. Of the five Cartland books I’ve read so far (a tiny percentage of her body of work), Enchanted and Love Climbs In have been the strongest.