As a teenager I often read M.J. Putney's (or Mary Jo Putney) historical romances. She was one of my favorites because she had female characters I felt I could relate to. Their situations and reactions felt real to me. When I saw she had a young adult historical paranormal romance coming out...I was overjoyed! Combining everything in one place that I love sounded like a great idea! Unfortunately while reading DARK MIRROR I remembered the two things I really didn't like about Putney's writing--her exposition heavy conversations and insta-connection that turns into insta-love without too much development on either side.
The book is set in two different eras--there's 1803, at Lackland Abbey where Tory is sent after saving her nephew's life with magic and 1940, at Lackland Village where Tory tumbles into after running for her life one night. Of the two I enjoyed 1803 better, because it's a time period I like better, but I thought it was clever of Putney to bridge the two eras with a common purpose--Protect England at all costs.
Tory's struggles are believable; she's a good person, but she was raised to believe that everything she is, is wrong. Tainted and corrupted. The reasoning behind the aristocracy's disdain is detailed in the prologue and I have to say it's amazing what a bunch of snobs can accomplish in a relatively short amount of time. It broke my heart when everyone Tory loved and cherished, save for her older brother and his wife, turned their backs on her as if she suddenly grew two heads. It later angered me that both her mother and sister seemingly aren't as un-magical as they proclaim to be yet treat Tory as a pariah just the same because they worry about THEIR lives. The injustice of it all had my fists clenching in frustration.
Tory's arrival at Lackland Abbey is when then narrative begins to fall apart somewhat. Tory is the 'new girl' with very little idea about how things go on at the Abbey or for magically inclined folks in general, so several characters take it upon themselves to answer every single question she (or the reader) has in explicit detail. Very little it left to the reader to deduce themselves or explore. Same can be said for when Tory finds herself in 1940--several characters again take it upon themselves to answer all (to a point, history can't be completely disrupted) her questions.
There is also the matter of her romantic interest in Allarde. This is going to be a several books long series, so I didn't see a need to solidify their relationship so quickly. It's literally one moment he is denying, the next he is 'just one kiss' and suddenly its 'I love you so much!'. I'm not certain of how much time passed between their first meeting and the declaration of love, but it felt entirely too rushed. I didn't feel, or read, the depths of emotion the both of them apparently developed.
Her friendship developments made much more sense and were a joy to read. From her camaraderie with Eslpeth, her 'normal' friendship with Nell and the combative...well not friendship exactly with Cynthia they were far more interesting. I found Jack Rainford to be a lively character as well and I certainly hope we see much more of him in the next book, DARK PASSAGE, due out in the fall.
In the end this was an enjoyable read, but Putney crammed too much relationship development into the last third of the book for it to be believable. Hopefully in the next one there's a step back and everyone takes some time to examine all the details.
Lady Victoria Mansfield, youngest daughter of the earl and countess of Fairmount, is destined for a charmed life. Soon she will be presented during the London season, where she can choose a mate worthy of her status.
Yet Tory has a shameful secret—a secret so powerful that, if exposed, it could strip her of her position and disgrace her family forever. Tory’s blood is tainted . . . by magic.
When a shocking accident forces Tory to demonstrate her despised skill, the secret she’s fought so hard to hide is revealed for all to see. She is immediately exiled to Lackland Abbey, a reform school for young men and women in her position. There she will learn to suppress her deplorable talents and maybe, if she’s one of the lucky ones, be able to return to society.
But Tory’s life is about to change forever. All that she’s ever known or considered important will be challenged. What lies ahead is only the beginning of a strange and wonderful journey into a world where destiny and magic come together, where true love and friendship find her, and where courage and strength of character are the only things that determine a young girl’s worth.