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Amulet (Heart's True Desire Book 1)

by Kathryn Amurra

Rating: ****

Val Nikolov was a skeptical nineteen-year-old when his Bulgarian grandmother gifted him an amulet, claiming it had magical properties. Seventeen years later, Val is wealthy and successful, thanks to the amulet, and about to oversee a lucrative acquisition of his company, Span Global.

Temp contract attorney, Alex Weaver, is helping Span Global with the due diligence process. When an employee's departure places the acquisition at risk, she has to travel to Israel with Val for a vital meeting.  As Val and Alex work closely together to save the deal, both begin to question their priorities and exactly where their lives are heading…

Having read Amurra’s historical fiction series set in Ancient Rome, I was curious to read Amulet given the genre departure. Unquestionably, Amurra has successfully segued into sweet, contemporary romance albeit with a softly supernatural dusting of magical realism thanks to the Amulet.

Amurra has crafted a neatly teasing plotline around her two main characters, Val and Alex, that pivots gently between the two. From a relatively straightforward beginning, she throws them the curveball of Israel which becomes an emotional turning point, even if neither Val nor Alex quite realizes it.

The narrative switches the perspective between Val and Alex, giving not only their point of view but also glimpses of backstory. Val’s is the more curious, at this stage, especially his estrangement from everyone in his family besides his niece, Liza.

Although aware that Alex has deeply religious parents and a brother, it is her boyfriend, Billy, who dominates her story, and who takes Alex for granted. Alex has a blind spot when it comes to Billy which Amurra plays upon just enough to not become overly-frustrating.

Alex is quite a contradictory character which works well in her dynamic with Val. An incredibly smart, intelligent attorney who missed a career break due to timing, she can also be startlingly naïve and often appears younger than her thirty-two years.

Similarly, Val is somewhat conflicted. Vulnerability and insecurity are lurking beneath the charismatic, controlled appearance. His deeply unpleasant sister, Gabriela, exploits his weaknesses to full advantage with a heinous act involving Liza that the reader is immediately aware of.

The chapters set in Israel are the strongest in the novel and Amurra pitches the chemistry between Val and Alex at just the right temperature. She paints an evocative picture of the Middle Eastern country, providing a heady but subtle background that gives her story more freedom as Val and, especially Alex navigate unfamiliar territory.

Amurra could have taken the anticipated option with the Israel trip but she doesn’t. The unpredictability of the story combined with Billy’s news as Val and Alex travel back to the US throws the reader nicely off balance and keeps the pages turning.

Amurra writes fast and light, and her prose is deceptively detailed, which occasionally is a touch superfluous. Still, it does give the reader a quick, thorough picture of the lesser characters. Judy, Val’s PA, was especially well-depicted.

Although Val and Alex’s misread signals, misunderstandings, and missed chances are the backbone of the novel, Amurra is careful to ensure a few side strands are introduced to continue the series and, events are not a completely foregone conclusion between Val and Alex.  Amurra has left herself and the reader with intriguing options for the next novel.

Amulet is an enchanting slice of sweetly satisfying escapism that provides a real treat for fans of the genre. Highly recommended.  

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