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By Madelyn Alt

Berkley Prime Crime, 2010 ($23.95)
ISBN-10: 0425232611
ISBN-13: 978-0-425-23261-3

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Maggie O'Neill is a small town girl, and she likes it just fine. If city dwellers consider the inhabitants of Stony Mill, Indiana as heathens, that's okay too. Some are more heathen than others, including Maggie and her two young nieces. Maggie has known for awhile that she is a sensitive, an empathy, able to read other peoples' moods and emotions, but for the past year or so her powers are growing and changing. She's used to hearing the thoughts of her higher self, in the voice of her late Granny G., in her mind, but now Granny is speaking directly into her ear, and Maggie doesn't always like what the old lady has to say. She especially doesn't appreciate it when Granny tries to interrupt her romantic interludes with Marcus Quinn, her hunky boyfriend, who also has Powers, as well as muscles and a fine body. He can cook, likes kittens and babies, and is able to carry her over the threshold of his home without breaking a sweat.

Maggie works in Enchantments, a shop full of scented candles, herbs, soaps, and other items beautiful and magical. The owner, Felicity Dow, or "Liss," is a certified witch and a good friend. She gives her pal a bag full of goodies for the Special Night she and Marcus have planned, their first sleepover as well as their first sleep together. At the crucial moment, her cell phone begins to ring -- and ring -- and ring, until she is forced to answer it. It's Liss, who is relaying a message from Maggie's overbearing mother. Mel, Maggie's younger sister, is in the hospital, ready to give birth. It's a little early, and there seem to be some kind of complications, and Mom demands that Maggie get to the hospital ASAP. Marcus comes with her, surprising Mom, who thought her daughter was still dating Tom, a police detective. That relationship just never seemed to jell, and they had recently agreed to go their separate ways. Marcus makes a good impression on Grandpa G., a randy old coot who still likes to have fun, even if he has to travel by wheelchair or scooter. He doesn't make much of an impression on Maggie's dad, who is comfortably snoozing behind a newspaper while his wife frets and fumes and hassles the medical staff. Mel's husband just seems preoccupied. He's been through this process twice before, and thinks he knows what to expect. He and the rest of the family are stunned when Mel has a C-section and delivers not just one new daughter, but two. Mel had been keeping this secret from her family for months, for her own reasons, and somehow nobody noticed. Her husband was busy with his divorce practice and hadn't attended any of the pre-natal doctor's visits. To the family's astonishment and disapproval, he leaves his wife and new babies after a short time, saying he has business to do.

Speaking of Tom, he shows up at the hospital, an attractive woman draped around him. Maggie realizes this must be his almost-ex wife. One of their friends is also giving birth, and they've come to lend her husband their support.

Maggie goes to the cafeteria to rustle up some coffee and grub for the waiting relatives, and takes a back elevator to avoid certain people. The elevator stops, and the lights go out. She's able to get part of a message to Marcus before her cell phone goes out, and she spends several long minutes in near panic. She's never liked hospitals, too many departed souls drifting through the halls, and now she is hearing ghostly voices through the elevator shaft. She figures out quickly that the voices belong to two live people, and their conversation is disturbing. Something about "...and she'll never know what hit her..."

While fulfilling her auntly duty to stay with Mel and the babies, Maggie hears an argument down the hall, looks out and sees a man leaving a room belonging to one of the other two new mommies. She doesn't think much about it until later, when tragedy strikes one of the families. She has a little accident in the hospital -- what luck, huh? And while this brings her physically closer to Marcus in one way, it still interferes with their as yet unconsummated relationship. The girl can't catch a break!

The book, number six in Alt's Bewitching Mystery series, is full of misunderstandings, mayhem, monkey business, manslaughter, and a lot of romantic tension and love gone wrong. There's not as much "woo-woo" as in previous books in the series, but it is enjoyable nonetheless. I still have trouble believing a tiny woman could conceal being pregnant with twins for almost nine months, but I guess it could happen...

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