This Rough Magic

By Mary Stewart

I re-read this on Audible. In my youth, I had read Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novels at least several times each. This one was not a favorite, and I did not remember very much about it. Hence my decision to choose this one to listen to. Well, it was wonderful. Unlike my experience with re-reading many of my old favorites, the magic of Mary Stewart is undiminished.

Of course, her ability to evoke the sights, people, and atmosphere of her chosen settings is almost legendary. Corfu is the setting of this one. Next best thing to being there. Although a trifle dated in its depiction of her male heroes and her heroine’s relationship to them, I found that quality part of its charm.

I loved the characters. Lucy, a second or third-tier London actress was appealing, intelligent, self-aware, and courageous. She is visiting her sister Phyllida, who was well-drawn and, although a certain “type,” was interesting and provided a bit of humor (not Mary’s strong point). She provides some sisterly perspectives on Lucy’s endearing personality. Max was a very worthy hero. I loved the development of their relationship from suspicion to love. It was subtle and romantic. Mary sometimes likes to incorporate charming teenage boys into her stories. In this one, we have two. And of course, Julian Gale, Max’s father, a great Shakespearean actor, who has mysteriously retired from the London stage. The bad guy was one of her most despicable and dangerous, once his pleasant and attractive facade is slowly and subtly peeled away. Lucy shines in her management of his personality and the danger he represents.

The sightseeing trip and Lucy’s entrapment with the bad guy aboard his boat is full of tension and suspense. Mary is a master at depicting women in deadly peril. I loved that in this one, she rescues herself with no help from her hero. I did remember about the rescue of the dolphin but had forgotten how the dolphin returns the favor. It was thrilling and touching. It is all topped off with a delicious scene with Lucy, who everyone thinks was probably murdered by the bad guy, making a dramatic entrance into his home while he is being unsuccessfully questioned by the police and her friends.

There were a few things that didn’t make sense, and a few frustrations, but they were very trifling. I wish there were other Mary Stewarts I could re-read, but the three I don’t know practically by heart, are ones I actively dislike. I’ll think on it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

July 23, 2021

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