With warm wit and believable imagination, Australian author Ebony McKenna scores a ten with her debut romantic fantasy Ondine: Summer of Shambles (Egmont UK Limited, 2010) then follows through with its sequel, Ondine: The Autumn Palace (Egmont UK Limited, 2011).
Book one opens with Ondine de Groot leaving summer psychic camp two weeks early, dreading how to tell her parents she's failing her studies. She also must figure out how to explain something else—that she's befriended a ferret, nickname Shambles, who not only can talk but is an enchanted Scottish laird. Ondine wisely decides not to mention that she's falling just the teensiest bit (OK, head over heels) in love with him.
Oh, and one more complication: It was Ondine's great aunt who put the spell on Hamish McPhee. Sheesh, as if being an overprotected 15 year old isn't bad enough!
To prove to Auntie Col he is worthy of being a man again, Hamish tries to help Ondine and her family run their pub, not an easy task when you look like a weasel and customers threaten to call the health inspector when they see you. While taking refuge underneath a table, Hamish overhears a plot to assassinate the country's leader.
Ondine and her da tell the duke what they've learned but don't understand why he and his son now are threatening to close down their establishment—until the de Groot family discovers, hidden in their pub, a box filled with jewels, money and documents that point to a scandal in the duke's family.
As Hamish's good deeds start to have a positive effect on Auntie Col's spell he is able to transform, for a few hours at a time, into his human form. As Col explains, "You've had a glimpse of the man you once were and can be again. The rest is up to you." But Ondine has another take: "What is the point of falling in love with a man if he turns back into a ferret when the moon goes down?"
The book ends on another suspenseful note as the duke offers Hamish a job working for him as a spy in his ferret form. What a "Shambles" this should be!
The only problem is the Infanta—along with the duke's wife, the Duchess Kerala, and his son, Lord Vincent—is one of the top three suspects. Ondine fears, however, it will be her heart that is done in, as Hamish takes to his new job with unexpected zest. Will Hamish be able to "ferret" out the truth in time to save the duke and their relationship?
Hamish's Scottish brogue and slang, which Ebony deftly defines with humorously written footnotes, combined with excellent dialogue and lovable characters make these books an extra delight.
If this is your first time to read a fantasy, you've picked the perfect one to enjoy. And if you're already of fan of fantasy that sparkles with romance and wit, the Ondine series is sure to please. You'll find yourself eagerly awaiting the release of the third title.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Visit her at http://ejmckennablog.blogspot.com/.
For U.S. orders, visit http://www.bookdepository.com/book/9781405249614/Ondine for Ondine: Summer of Shambles and http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9781405256384/The-Autumn-Palace for Ondine: The Autumn Palace.
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Be sure to watch for next week's two-part interview with author Ebony McKenna.
Your turn. What other romantic fantasies are on your all-time fave list?