BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Book Review: Mainly By Moonlight


Title: Mainly By Moonlight (Bedknobs and Broomsticks Book One)

Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing

Author: Josh Lanyon

Pages: 226pp

Price: $10.99/$4.99

Cosmo Saville is a witch. More specifically, he is a practitioner of the Craft and the heir to le trône de sorcière, the Throne of the Abracadantes, a hereditary French magical line. Like all witches, Cosmo does his best to hide in plain sight, keeping the mundane community ignorant of the existence of magic. He also does his best to live as a mundane, having not actively practiced magic for two years. Then, in the space of only a few weeks, he falls hopelessly in love with Police Commissioner John Galbraith; discovers that his family's long-lost grimoire is no longer quite so lost; and is accused of murder. With his marriage to John fast approaching, Cosmo must navigate the intricacies and politics of a high society wedding, figure out where the grimoire is hidden, clear himself of murder charges, and stay off the radar of a new militant order of witch hunters .... So much for not using magic ....

Lanyon is one of my favorite authors. She has written dozens of romantic mysteries, but has only ventured a few times into the realm of paranormal romance. This is her first serious attempt, and, happily, it will not be the last. Mainly By Moonlight is the first in a trilogy, and I hope that it garners enough success for Lanyon to keep writing paranormal mystery romances.

Firstly, Cosmo and John are great characters. Cosmo is a good person stuck in an impossible situation who just wants to settle down with the man he loves and live a quiet, normal, mundane life. Unfortunately, like all witches, Cosmo has spent his life lying -- but he does so to protect himself and his loved ones. He hates lying to John, but knows of no other way that they can be together. He is also honor-bound to recover the grimoire and return it to his mother, the future Crone of the Abracadantes. That means sneaking around, using his rusty magic ... and lying to John.

The story is told entirely from Cosmo's point of view, so the reader only comes to understand John through his interactions with Cosmo and others. He comes across as grounded, practical, and honorable; not stuffy so much as orderly; and I get the distinct impression that, when he finally discovers who and what Cosmo is, he will not react well to having his world up-ended -- and then he'll come riding to the rescue anyway like the hero he is.

Mainly By Moonlight is one of the most explicitly Pagan-friendly romances that I have read in a long time. Lanyon really did her homework. Cosmo prays regularly to the Goddess, thinks of Her often, and addresses the Lord and Lady on more than one occasion. Like all practitioners of the Craft, he avoids any variation on the phrase "goddamn," as such a curse has real power (something mundanes seem to have forgotten). Additionally, Lanyon (via Cosmo) goes out of her way to explain the differences between Wicca and Satanism. In a humorous twist, we even get to see the effect that pop culture portrayals of magic have had on the Craft community; in Cosmo's childhood, television was restricted or forbidden, lest little witchlings pick up bad habits from watching Bewitched, the Potter films, or other such programs.

And the magic of Mainly By Moonlight is very much of the Bewitched and Potter variety. No twitching noses or faux-Latin spells, but plenty of magic doorways, time-stopping, memory wipes, teleportation, and bad rhymes. It was fun to watch Cosmo, so out of practice, bumble his way through one inelegant spell after another with sometimes awkward results.

As fun as Mainly By Moonlight is, though, it also has its serious side. The relationship between Cosmo and John raises important questions about love and loyalty and trust, while the appearance of the Society for Prevention of Magic in the Mortal Realm brings to the fore such issues as religious persecution, genocide, and vigilantism. The issue of cultural appropriation also comes up when Cosmo discusses the (mis)use of sacred Craft symbols as tourist kitsch, while prejudice against non-magical people is quite evident among some of Cosmo's more conservative, tradition-bound relatives.

Mainly By Moonlight is a great first volume in what I hope will be a great trilogy. I can't wait to read the next two books. Highly recommended to fans of the Blades of the Rose series by Archer, the Elder Races series by Harrison, P.S. I Spook You by Harmon, Spectred Isle by Charles, and The Witchkin Murders by Francis.  

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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