This Rough Magic

This Rough Magic

by Mary Stewart

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The original queen of the page-turner Mary Stewart leads her readers on a thrilling journey through a dangerous and deadly Provence in this tale perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and Barbara Pym.

'Mary Stewart is magic' New York Times

'One of the great British storytellers of the 20th century' Independent

Lucy Waring, a young, out-of-work actress from London, leaps at the chance to visit her sister for a summer on the island paradise of Corfu, and what's more, a famous but reclusive actor is staying in a villa nearby. But Lucy's hopes for rest and romance are shattered when a body washes up on the beach and she finds herself swept up in a chilling chain of events.

I shuddered, and drank my coffee, leaning back in my chair to gaze out across pine tops furry with gold towards the sparkling sea, and surrendering myself to the dreamlike feeling that marks the start of a holiday . . .

'A comfortable chair and a Mary Stewart: total heaven. I'd rather read her than most other authors.' Harriet Evans

'She built the bridge between classic literature and modern popular fiction. She did it first and she did it best.' Herald

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781444720518
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd.
Publication date: 05/26/2011
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 20,224
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Mary Stewart was one of the 20th century's bestselling and best-loved novelists. She was born in Sunderland, County Durham in 1916, but lived for most of her life in Scotland, a source of much inspiration for her writing. Her first novel, Madam, Will You Talk? was published in 1955 and marked the beginning of a long and acclaimed writing career. In 1971 she was awarded the International PEN Association's Frederick Niven Prize for The Crystal Cave, and in 1974 the Scottish Arts Council Award for one of her children's books, Ludo and the Star Horse. She was married to the Scottish geologist Frederick Stewart, and died in 2014.

Read an Excerpt

This Rough Magic

Chapter One

... a relation for a breakfast ...
The Temptest, Act V, Scene 1

"And if it's a boy," said Phyllida cheerfully, "we'll call him Prospero."

I laughed. "Poor little chap, why on earth? Oh, of course ... Has someone been telling you that Corfu was Shakespeare's magic island for The Tempest?"

"As a matter of fact, yes, the other day, but for goodness' sake don't ask me about it now. Whatever you may be used to, I draw the line at Shakespeare for breakfast." My sister yawned, stretched out a foot into the sunshine at the edge of the terrace, and admired the expensive beach sandal on it. "I didn't mean that, anyway, I only meant that we've already got a Miranda here, and a Spiro, which may not be short for Prospero, but sounds very like it."

"Oh? It sounds highly romantic. Who are they?"

"A local boy and girl: they're twins."

"Good heavens. Papa must be a literary gent?"

Phyllida smiled. "You could say so."

Something in her expression roused my curiosity, just as something else told me she had meant to; so I -- who can be every bit as provoking as Phyllida when I try -- said merely, "Well, in that case hadn't you better have a change? How about Caliban for your unborn young? It fits like a glove."

"Why?" she demanded indignantly.

" 'This blue-eyed hag was hither brought with child,' " I quoted. "Is there some more coffee?"

"Of course. Here. Oh, my goodness, it's nice to have you here, Lucy! I suppose I oughtn't to call it luck that you were free to come just now, but I'm awfully glad you could. This is heaven after Rome."

"And paradise after London. I feel different already. When I think where I was this time yesterday ... and when I think about the rain ... "

I shuddered, and drank my coffee, leaning back in my chair to gaze out across pine tops furry with gold toward the sparkling sea, and surrendering myself to the dreamlike feeling that marks the start of a holiday in a place like this when one is tired and has been transported overnight from the April chill of England to the sunlight of a magic island in the Ionian Sea.

Perhaps I should explain (for those who are not so lucky as I) that Corfu is an island off the west coast of Greece. It is long and sickle-shaped, and lies along the curve of the coast; at its nearest, in the north, it is barely two miles off the Albanian mainland, but from the town of Corfu, which is about halfway down the curve of the sickle, the coast of Greece is about seven or eight miles distant. At its northern end the island is broad and mountainous, tailing off through rich valleys and ever decreasing hills into the long, flat scor-pion's tail of the south from which some think that Corfu, or Kerkyra, gets its name.

My sister's house lies some twelve miles north of Corfu town, where the coast begins its curve toward the mainland, and where the foothills of Mount Pantokrator provide shelter for the rich little pocket of land which has been part of her husband's family property for a good many years.

My sister Phyllida is three years older than I, and when she was twenty she married a Roman banker, Leonardo Forli. His family had settled in Corfu during the Venetian occupation of that island, and had managed somehow to survive the various subsequent "occupations" with their small estate more or less intact, and had even, like the Vicar of Bray, contrived to prosper. It was under the British Protectorate that Leo's great-grandfather had built the pretentious and romantic Castello dei Fiori in the woods above the little bay where the estate runs down to the sea. He had planted vineyards, and orange orchards, including a small plantation (if that is the word) of the Japanese miniature oranges called koùm koyàt for which the Forli estate later became famous. He even cleared space in the woods for a garden, and built -- beyond the southern arm of the bay and just out of sight of the Castello -- a jetty and a vast boathouse, which (according to Phyllida) would almost have housed the Sixth Fleet, and had indeed housed the complicated flock of vessels in which his guests used to visit him. In his day, I gathered, the Castello had been the scene of one large and continuous house party: in summer they sailed and fished, and in the fall there were hunting parties, when thirty or so guests would invade the Greek and Albanian mainlands to harry the birds and ibexes.

But those days had vanished with the first war, and the family moved to Rome, though without selling the Castello, which remained, through the twenties and thirties, their summer home. The shifting fortunes of the Second World War almost destroyed the estate, but the Forlis emerged in postwar Rome with the family fortunes mysteriously repaired, and the then Forli Senior -- Leo's father -- turned his attention once more to the Corfu property. He had done something to restore the place, but after his death three years ago his son had decided that the Castello's rubbed and faded splendors were no longer for him, and had built a pair of smallish modern villas -- in reality twin bungalows -- on the two headlands enclosing the bay of which the Castello overlooked the center. He and Phyllida themselves used the Villa Forli, as they called the house on the northern headland; its twin, the Villa Rotha, stood to the south of the bay, above the creek where the boathouse was. The Villa Rotha had been rented by an Englishman, a Mr. Manning, who had been there since the previous autumn working on a book ("you know the kind," said my sister, "all photographs, with a thin trickle of text in large type, but they're good") ...

This Rough Magic. Copyright © by Mary Stewart. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A magical concoction brewed from the most disparate plot elements. . . . A warm and sunny book, for all its violence."  —New York Times

"Romantic, suspenseful, delightful."  —Columbus Dispatch

"The best sort of romantic suspense, the kind that only Mary Stewart could write."  —Nancy Pearl, author, Book Lust to Go

"Mary Stewart's writing is magical, with every word and phrase carefully chosen for beauty and sound and shape. . . . One marvels at the exquisite evocation of scene."  —Los Angeles Times

"Wonderfully evoked atmosphere . . . fine plotting and suspense."  —San Francisco Chronicle

"Suspense and romance, expertly mingled."  —Observer

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This Rough Magic 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have now 12 books by Mary Stewart in my Library. This Rough Magic, ws very disappointing due to the Lucy Waring character taking too long (too many pages) to think about something; whom to tell, whom not to tell and basically taking to long to, "SPIT IT OUT" instead of so many pages before she even remembers to mention at least a couple of important issues. An annoying scatterbrain who made a possibly good story forgettable.
ncgraham on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Please don't go making a mystery out of this."¿Max Gale, chapter four Let me start off by saying that I really wanted to like this book. I love Stewart's Merlin trilogy and since all she has written aside from the five Arthurian books are romantic suspense novels, I valiantly set forth to try this new genre, starting with This Rough Magic. After all, I love suspense films, not to mention Shakespeare, and a little romance on the side can't hurt too much. Besides, how bad could it be with Ms. Stewart at the helm? The answer is: worse than I expected. Her talent still shines through in odd places, as there are some stretches of wonderful description and dialogue, but in general the plot strikes me as cliché. Maybe this is simply because I'm unfamiliar with the genre, but take a gander at this summary I wrote of the first two chapters and see what you think: Struggling actress Lucy Waring is invited to the Mediterranean island of Corfu by her rich sister, who informs her that the castle has been rented by a retired actor, Sir Julian Gale. Post-information dump, Lucy goes to beech and befriends a local dolphin (doesn't this just give you the warm fuzzies?)¿who is then, mysteriously, shot at. The only creature in view is Max Gale, the veteran actor's son who also happens to be "well-built" and have "sensual lips." Lucy's encounter with him is quite stormy but I don't think we have any illusions about their future relationship, do we? To be fair, it does improve afterward. The plot, it turns out, has to do with two murders, not "who tried to kill the poor wittle dolphin?" This, however, raises another question: what is the function of the dolphin in the story? He only shows up twice but this thread never really leads to anything. Ditto for Sir Julian's long speeches on why Corfu really is Prospero's island. Then there's the love interest, which practically redefines the term "whirlwind romance." At first the heroine is deeply distrustful of the hero, but as soon as he kisses her passionately she becomes strangely placid and unquestioning, and both fall prey to the sudden use of "dear" and "darling." Of course, nearly everyone on the island is unbelievably, irresistibly beautiful. This is not to say that the book is all bad. Stewart does local color superbly; notice her wonderful description of St. Spiridion's parade: "The bands¿there were four of them, all gorgeously uniformed¿played solemnly and rather badly, each a different tune." And in spite of a few annoying points, I do like Lucy, particularly her concession that she wasn't ever going to be one of the top-tier actresses, and that she was content with this fact. Such honesty and self-knowledge are rare. Finally, the scenes in which she leads the villain on are beautifully done; indeed, I have to admit that chapter eighteen is a masterpiece of structure. Stewart employs a deus-ex-machina in her ending, but at least her heroine is intelligent enough to recognize it! Overall, a disappointment, but the redeeming features may be enough to convince me that Stewart deserves one more try.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I own this book in paperback but after years of reading e-books I no longer like any other format. So once a year or so I would check to see if they were available. I've read and re-read all of her books and thought they withstood the test of time. The ability to google certain things in the book and see their pictures so readilly made for an even richer experience. ( I googled the Achileion Palace which was an abandoned ruin in the book but must have been refinished and a car which turned out to be a truly beautiful Jaguar an XK 150 I think. I'm not a car person but I know art when I see it.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Exciting and suspenseful a story as anyone ever wrote and romantic. Yet it is a book I could give to any teenager and not worry about the content.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Romance, suspense, murder, all on the beautiful island of Corfu. A dolphin, a girl, a mystery.....start to finish Lucy Waring keeps getting in over her head. Mary Stewart is one of my favorite authors. I'm thrilled they are finally available on ebook!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
i am amazed that when writing about mary stewart no one mentions her book 'thronyhold'. By far one of her better books. A very understated but quietly entertaining book. romantic and haunting.i can read this book over and over, and have done so throughout the years.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've just finished reading this for the first time and it won't be the last. I have to admit that it wasn't as good as 'Wildfire at Midnight' or 'The Moonspinners' but maybe I just like the lead better in those. The story was gripping, I really couldn't put it down, I just had find out how it all turned out even though I knew since it is Mary Stewart it would end well, it was fantastic.