A breath of frost by Alyxandra Harvey

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Lovegrove legacy, bk 1. Bloomsbury, 2014. ISBN 9781408836354.
(Age: 12+) Recommended. Paranormal. Witchcraft. Romance. Mystery. It is 1814 and three cousins, Emma, Gretchen and Penelope discover that the Lovegrove family have a legacy of magic. Amidst the splendour of Regency balls and beautiful ballgowns, the Greymalkin Sisters come prowling through the gates of the Underworld that Emma has inadvertently opened. Debutante witches are murdered and Emma is mysteriously drawn to their bodies, causing the Order of Keepers to suspect her of murder.
The book opens with a bang as a young girl Moira clambers over the rooftops of London and breaks into the house of a dead witch to steal her glass eye. The exhilarating action continues on with the introduction of Emma and her cousins at a ball where there is a ghostly fire and a debutante is found dead. Here Emma discovers that she has a heritage of magic and together with her cousins Gretchen and Penelope they face danger, not just from the ghouls and hellhounds and the Greymalkin Sisters but from members of the Order who are afraid of their powers.
The Regency setting is fabulous, with its descriptions of dance lessons, etiquette, ballrooms and gowns contrasting with Moira's background of slums and thieving. The elements of magic including a Woodcutter's son, a white stag and familiars for each of the debutante witches, are cleverly written and build up an atmosphere of enchantment. The battles between the creatures from the Underworld and Emma's growing powers are enthralling.
Although the story is peopled with a vast array of characters, including the three cousins, their mothers, fathers, girls at the exclusive finishing school, Moira and Cormac, a Keeper who has no magic, it is still easy to follow Emma's story. She grapples with a mother who has gone mad to protect the cousins and her growing magic powers. Her attachment to Cormac who seems to have lost interest in her, provides food for the lovers of romance who won't be disappointed.
Fans of Alyxandra Harvey won't be disappointed in this story of clever heroines, magic and romance and will look forward to hearing more about the Lovegrove legacy.
Pat Pledger