We’re reading our way across America...one romance at a time. And, to make it even more fun, we’re doing it in order of incorporation into the United States.
NEW YORK: Hex and the Single Girl by Valerie Frankel
When it comes to New York (the eleventh state to join the Union) there is little that needs be said. From Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Bonfire of the Vanities to The Devil Wears Prada and, hey, even Gossip Girl, its largest and most iconic city has long been celebrated in story—and, indeed, in song.
Further afield, New York State has offered up many a tantalizing tale: The Great Gatsby takes us to Long Island; The Sherwood Ring to upstate Orange County; and, of course, the
Our heroine is one Emma Hutch, and she is described as a witch, but she only has the one power: the made-up-sounding-because-it-is-made-up telegraphopathy, or the ability to transmit images into other peoples’s heads (though she also has unusually keen senses; hard to tell whether that is a part of her essential witchiness or whether she was perhaps exposed to some form of toxic radiation, superhero-style). Now, the telegraphopathy might not seem too useful, as magical powers go, but Emma has found a way to make money out of what is surely one of the lesser gifts with which an Urban Fantasy sorceress has been endowed: she’s a match-maker!
Yep, this is Hitch for the Wicca-loving set, as Emma (note the nod to Austen) undertakes to “sell” her clients to the objects of their affection by having them pose for a series of suggestive photographs taken by her obligatory chick-lit male best friend (who is not, surprisingly, gay), which she then commits to memory and proceeds to implant in the brains of assorted hapless men who perhaps had not previously pictured Maureen from Accounts in a French maid’s outfit or as a naughty librarian.
Our story opens when into the home-office of The Good Witch, Inc. sashays the calculating and callous Daphne Wittfield, a PR exec with her eye on New York’s most eligible bachelor, one William Dearborn. Artist, IT wunderkind, style-maker, and man about town, Liam is adored by even the most staunchly blasé of Manhattanites, of both sexes—but after an accidental, yet superhot, kiss in a restroom, soon the only woman on his mind is not Emma’s client, nor even his model girlfriend, but Emma herself.
There follows a pleasantly entertaining succession of wacky shenanigans, mostly of the old-school slapstick, madcap, screwball comedy type, as Emma dons an array of improbable disguises, fights her own baser instincts, makes matches left and right—including one between a hospital orderly and actress Chloe Sevigny (!?!)—and ultimately reveals her powers to one of her marks, following which she finds herself exclaiming in disgust: “Great! Now I have to rethink my whole fucking existence.”
Then more fun and games as Emma helps a friend get closure after a bad breakup with a scumbag, tracks down an embezzled pension fund, assists in bringing a case of advertising fraud to light, and pines for Liam—all culminating in one especially memorable Halloween party which she attends as, of course, Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.
It’s all so much fun! I mean, sure, coincidences abound, there is a certain manic energy to it all and we are forced to endure more than a few questionable puns. On the other hand, as Emma’s surprisingly-not-gay best friend Victor says: “My puns are my charm.” Frankel’s writing is light, purposeful, frank (if you’ll forgive the her-worthy pun) and really quite captivating. While this was—somehow; and I have no idea how—my first foray into her back catalogue, it certainly won’t be my last. Like the city in which she lays her scene, and which she celebrates throughout this novel (though our Emma is definitely a downtown girl, grousing at one point, when doused in Dr. Pepper: “This is just the kind of thing that happens when you go above 14th Street.”), her world is fast-paced, full of fascinating characters and above all, kind of magical.
And just like New York City, it is a place I find myself wanting to visit again and again.
Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.