Sourcebooks Casablanca / December 3, 2013 / $7.99 print & digital
Sir Gareth Solimere, knight of King Arthur's Round Table, has been trapped inside Merlin's relic for centuries, cursed until he finds his one true love. When he finally finds her in the unexpected form of a beautiful were-panther named Millicent Pantere, he has to use all of his charms to try to make her love him in return. But if he manages this feat, will he finally be free to live a normal life?
Fourth in the Relics of Merlin series, Everlasting Enchantment by Kathryne Kennedy explores the initially reluctant attraction that were-panther Millicent Pantere feels for Sir Gareth Solimere, a medieval knight trapped within a magical bracelet. If you’re new to the series, as I was, there’s enough background given to follow the story, though I was a bit confused as to how historical it was meant to be; the English aristocracy in this world holds a very different place due to their magical abilities, and seems to keep itself much more separate from the non-magical classes than in our world. For instance, there’s an Underworld that is restricted to magic users. Given the existence there of a historical Merlin, and Sir Gareth’s chivalric behavior, it was clear the series takes place in a secondary world rather than our own, with the King Arthur of literature rather than a historically-based version.
The setup includes shapechangers, who are socially the lowest of those possessing magical abilities. The shapechangers are treated as less refined and less intelligent, and though they have the useful ability to “scent” magical relics, this leads to them being treated like hunting animals rather than colleagues by the other magic users. Many of the shapechangers, though English, take the forms of African animals, which might be a reference to European colonialism.
The opening scenes of the story have a flavor of My Fair Lady, with Millicent having been coerced by an evil duke into attending a society ball.
As if she had any hope of fooling them into thinking she was a lady. The door of the coach flew open and the duke’s footman leered in at her. “Time for the ball, Cinderella.”
Millicent’s low growl turned into a snarl. She had the satisfaction of seeing the footman blink with fear before the duke spoke from the seat across from her. “You’d best behave yourself,” he remarked, those black eyes glittering even in the shadows. “We’ve doused you with perfume but we can’t be sure it will entirely hide your scent from the other shape-shifters. You animals have such gifted noses.”
Millicent tried to take a deep breath but her new corset stopped her halfway. The blasted thing crackled whenever she moved, the fabric stiff against her back and belly, the whalebone inserts lacking the suppleness of age and wear. When she gathered her brocade skirts together and exited the carriage, they felt just the same—stiff and unnatural.
…“You look lovely, my dear. See to it that all the months of preparation are not wasted tonight.”
“It won’t work,” snapped Millicent as she took his arm with a forced smile, revealing the slightly long canines at the corners of her mouth. “You can’t turn an animal into a lady in just a few months.”
Gareth, meanwhile, operates under a code of chivalry, and isn’t used to women who don’t need his protection and resist his charm; he’s a bit vain, so it’s fun to see him taken down a peg. Millicent, for quite a while, appears indifferent to him. She needs the relic in which he is imprisoned, for her own purposes; the man inside is merely a complication.
“Forgive me, my lady, for failing to protect you.”
“Very gallant of you, I’m sure, but I hardly needed your protection. I thought one of my own kind would be more of a challenge, but he fought like an overgrown hyena.”
…This was the part where she begged him to rise and fell into his arms. When it became apparent that she had no intention of doing so, Gareth stood. How did he seduce a woman tougher than the blade of his sword?
Though physical attraction and shared goals do eventually draw the two together, I enjoyed the contrast in their worldviews, and the resulting conflict. Millicent has no reason to trust Gareth or his motives, and several reasons to distrust them. He must prove himself to her, like a knight on a quest, and in the process prove himself worthy to the reader as well.
(For a taste of Everlasting Enchantment, read a special excerpt from the book here at H&H!)
Learn more or order a copy of Everlasting Enchantment by Kathryne Kennedy, available December 3, 2013: