Setting: Montlivet, Essex, England, present day
Psychic Claire St. John lives quietly in the English countryside until American ex-professor Michael Townsend decides to find his long-missing mother. Stella abandoned two-year-old Michael to his father, leaving behind a cryptic letter about her being cursed and their being better off without her. Michael found the letter later in life, in a box containing a puzzling ring and other magical trinkets. These are his only clues to his mother’s whereabouts, other than that she was from Montlivit, England.
Michael rents Claire’s guesthouse as a base of operations in Montlivet, but Claire is immediately put off by him because his aura is entirely black. A violent storm has portended his arrival by uprooting a tree in Claire’s yard. Its roots clutch the century-old bones of a woman wearing a ring identical to the one Michael found with his mother’s things.
The ring’s engraving and Michael’s research draw him to the attention of a powerful black witch, Delilah. She assumes he has been sent to be her High Priest in a high magick ceremony that will bring her greater powers.
Claire and Michael’s attraction to each other soon pits Claire and her white witch colleagues against Delilah and her dark cohorts in a battle of good versus evil with Michael’s soul as the prize.
While all this may sound fantastic and far fetched, author Jill Jones miraculously makes the whole sound plausible. The tone and content is even potentially edifying regarding those who travel and conduct business on astral planes. This matter-of-fact approach may broaden this book’s appeal to include all but hardened skeptics of psychic phenomena and powers. Jones skates the slippery edge of this dark and daring subject, and injects subtle humor to further lighten the story. Readers may occasionally wonder whether to take the drama seriously, as the author seems to share the same dilemma. The story and characters are so engaging, however, that they will pull most readers along playfully to find out what bizarre event could possibly happen next. Multiple points of view keep the reader aware of what is happening in all camps, so the story is more entertaining than intellectually challenging. The mystery regarding Michael’s mother hangs in the background as a carrot, keeping armchair detectives on the lookout for possible clues to its solution.
Gothic elements abound. Nearby Hartford Hall contains a specially designed basement room where magic rituals are performed. Ghosts and psychic presences are able to physically
affect and control characters, which adds a fourth dimension to the story.
Jones is obviously having fun with her craft. In Circle of the Lily, she takes readers along on her joyride to the spiritual realm. Her extensive research lends an air of authenticity to the experience that will have readers wondering if they have really been somewhere in their dreams. This book is an unusual treat that the adventurous will not want to miss.
ISBN 0-312-96813-2, 320 pp., $5.99, Romance, St. Martin’s Press, November 1998
–Kristi Lyn Glass, Publisher, Gothic Journal
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