Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Kale Williams
Length: 6 hours, 13 minutes
John and Cosmo’s love is magical. At first meeting, John cut Cosmo dead with a glance, but Cosmo — an antique dealer and sometimes witch — still outbid him for the Victorian bed. The second time they met, at the Black and White Ball, John, now Police Commissioner, confessed he couldn’t get Cosmo out of his mind … and after a two-week whirlwind courtship, John proposed and Cosmo said yes. Of course, no one but the two of them seems happy about it.
Cosmo’s mother, a powerful witch next in line to be the Crone, dislikes John and would happily see the wedding fall through. John’s friends can’t seem to understand what John sees in Cosmo and their hostility can be felt from across the room. No matter, though, Cosmo is head over heels in love, and so is John. Right? Only it turns out that Cosmo’s one true love may be under the influence of a love spell cast by Cosmo’s best friend, Andy, in an effort to knock John off his high horse.
Cosmo has a choice to either let the love spell linger and fade away on its own, hoping that time and closeness manage to bring them closer together even when the magic is gone, or to have Andy remove the spell. Two days before their wedding. Even as he listens to a new sharpness in John’s voice, even as he misses the unquestioning devotion, Cosmo still loves John and he can’t bring himself to stop the wedding.
Oh, and then there’s the whole mess with the dead body that Cosmo found, the one that has John’s detectives sniffing around Cosmo’s life, the life he’d rather not have some mundane, non-magical people sticking their noses in. And a missing grimoire, a missing witch, and a witch hunting cabal his mother says has infiltrated their city. All this, and there’s still his stag night to get through.
There is a lot to deal with in this story, and yet not much at all. The primary focus is not the murder, the mystery, or even the magic. It’s the wedding. Almost all of Cosmo’s thoughts are focused on John, on how much he loves him, how much he doesn’t want to lose him, and the fact that he’s giving up his magical life to be with John. Cosmo’s honest devotion and pain when he learns John is ensorceled to love him is evident in every line. He loves his mother, is devoted to his friends, but he’s choosing John.
John is a bit of a cypher. In the beginning, when Cosmo is first being questioned, he’s being almost cavalier about it, brushing away any concerns that Cosmo needs to be investigated. But, once the love spell is gone, he’s angrier, more defensive, insisting Cosmo make time for the detectives, that he not do something foolish like sneak out in the middle of the night to revisit the crime scene. He’s more aggressive, more forceful, and it’s interesting to see Cosmo notice the small bits and pieces of John’s personality even as we do.
Throughout the story there’s the great question: How much does John know? What does he guess? With his peculiar reaction to magic, with his sister’s desire to be a witch, is there a chance he’s somehow involved in Cosmo’s world? Cosmo knows so little about John, about his life or his job. And yet, Cosmo is so blinded by love, so in love, that he can’t bring himself to back away, to surrender his chance of love and happiness with John.
This is book one of the Bedknobs and Broomsticks series and it’s mostly set up. We’re introduced to characters, ideas, and the world, but distantly, off-handedly. At the end of the book, there’s still the question of who did what to whom, who knows what, who stole what, and who is or isn’t a threat. We have characters introduced on both sides — John’s friends, his detectives, his sister — and Cosmo’s friends and family, but they’re all just introductions and very few explanations.
This book was narrated by Kale Williams and I think he did an amazing job. While he’s not great at voices, he got Cosmo’s personality to come through in an interesting way. Cosmo could have come across as either a nitwit or a prig; instead Williams manages to infuse a sly, gentle humor into the narration that makes Cosmo more charming. He’s bemused by his mother — The Duchess — and her infatuation with her own rank and title, his mockery is fond and gentle, and he lets the reader (or listener, in this case) in on the joke. Had I read the book rather than heard the audio, I wonder what my initial impression of Cosmo would be. But whatever it would have been, I doubt I would have liked that version of Cosmo half as much as the one Williams delivered. Here, Cosmo has a keen sense of both the ridiculousness and the gravity of the French titles and the witchy ranks, giving them a sort of bemused loftiness that lets us both scoff at the pomposity and yet feel Cosmo’s own ties to his past. Williams gives Cosmo a sly, gentle humor that invites the listener to be in on the jokes, and the jokes are never cruel or cutting.
Williams is a narrator I haven’t listened to before, but he’s one I’m going to add to my watch list for future audio titles. I highly recommend both this story and this narrator.