Petty Magic: Being the Memoirs and Confessions of Miss Evelyn Harbinger, Temptress and Troublemaker

Petty Magic: Being the Memoirs and Confessions of Miss Evelyn Harbinger, Temptress and Troublemaker

by Camille DeAngelis

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Evelyn Harbinger is a heck of a lot older than she looks. At 149 years of age, Eve can still iron out the wrinkles on a Saturday night, turning heads and taking more than phone numbers as the foxy, dark-haired girl she used to be. She and her sisters have spent the better part of their lives using their powers for only the highest good—Eve herself spied for the Allies in Paris and Berlin—but in their golden years, the beldames are free to enjoy themselves however they please.
When Eve meets Justin at her favorite curiosity shop, though, her games are over. Justin looks and acts uncannily like Jonah, her partner on the most dangerous mission of her career—and the great love of her life. Experts in espionage, Eve and Jonah gave up their one chance at happiness to advance the Allied cause, and no man has measured up ever since. Justin is unsuspecting but equally smitten, and Eve is much too headstrong to listen to the common-sense warnings of her coven. Meanwhile, another beldame has accused Eve’s sister Helena of killing her own husband sixty years before, and Eve, disguised as her younger self, spends more and more time with Justin to take her mind off the growing pile of evidence that suggests her sister isn't the pure-hearted matriarch she appears to be.
Eve knows her family has every reason to disapprove and that falling in love with an ordinary man can only end in despair, but she can’t give up the boy who might be Jonah—because this time, she just might be able to keep him.
A delightfully romantic adventure set between a supernatural version of present-day New York City and the epic backdrop of World War II, Petty Magic proves that the real fun starts when beldames and mortal men dare to fall in love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781497680791
Publisher: Open Road Distribution
Publication date: 09/30/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 296
Sales rank: 374,121
File size: 549 KB

About the Author

Camille DeAngelis is the author of the novels Mary Modern and Bones & All (March 2015). She received an MA in writing at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and has also written a first-edition guidebook, Moon Ireland. DeAngelis lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

Petty Magic

Being the Memoirs and Confessions of Miss Evelyn Harbinger, Temptress and Troublemaker

By Camille DeAngelis


Copyright © 2010 Camille DeAngelis
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-8079-1


"All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable"

WITCH, n. 1. Any ugly and repulsive old woman, in a wicked league with the devil. 2. A beautiful and attractive young woman, in wickedness a league beyond the devil. —Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

There are many misconceptions of which I must disabuse you, but the most offensive concerns the wands and warts and black pointed caps. Some of us may be wizened and rather hairy in unfortunate places, but we're certainly no uglier than the rest of you lumps.

I look grandmotherly enough myself though, for it's a rare morning I don't nab a seat on the uptown 103—and when I am compelled to stand, the respectable citizens around me will grouse on my behalf at the bad manners of those buffoons claiming knee injuries or feigning deafness. As I disembark I wish the respectable ones a pleasant day, and I can see I remind them of their dear great-aunties. Don't I look like the sort who bakes oatmeal cookies by the gross, slips a fiver into your birthday card? Nobody ever has an inkling, do they?

Some nights I ride the bus a third time, but you wouldn't recognize me then. I'll tell you how I do it. First I run a crooked forefinger over these travertine teeth, so when I look into the mirror over the mantel I can flash my old Pepsodent smile. Then I kick off my orthopedic shoes, say the right words to shrug off this sagging elephant hide, and in a moment I'm lithe as a teenager again. Thus liberated (and three inches taller besides), I take a long hot bath with bubbles and candles, draw concentric hearts in the steam on the mirrors, and spend an hour or more lounging about my bedroom with party clothes strewn across the unmade bed and the contents of my makeup case all over the vanity table. When I'm finally dressed, perfumed, and done up, I survey myself once more in the mantel mirror. Can't help grinning like a feline at what I see. The beldame has sharpened her knives!

So I go out and avail myself of some delicious little boy I've found at a bar I've never been to before and will never visit again. Some nights it's cinnamon vodka in china teacups and other times I'll settle for a two-dollar draft—not that I ever pay for my own drinks, mind! I don't just go for the pretty ones, either; he's got to sustain my attention for the hours it takes for three or four rounds and a scintillating tête-à-tête, a cab ride home (his place, always his), and a lively tussle in the sack.

You ought to know I never go for the ones who're already taken, no matter where their eyes might wander. Wouldn't be right. But I watch how men and women alike guard their lovers: he spots another man eyeing his girlfriend's cleavage, drapes his arm over her shoulders, and looks daggers at the interloper; she sees a single girl like me merely glancing at her man, shoots me a glare, and kisses him midsentence. How primitive it is, the way they lay claim to one another.

Not me, though. I'm only asking for the night. Not even, because I leave as soon as he falls asleep. At daybreak I find the city is at its bleakest: through the window of a speeding cab I see the flickering neon of a twenty-four-hour diner peopled with insomniacs, raccoon-eyed girls teetering home on broken heels, men too sauced to bother ducking into alleyways to relieve themselves. Even at this ungodly hour the taxi driver is on his mobile. I lean my still-smooth forehead against the frosted window, the ghosts of his hands roving under my evening garb.

My taste varies by the night. Sometimes I set my eye on a playboy and revel in my triumph when he loses sight of every other girl in the club. (Aren't I doing them all a favor? And doesn't he deserve the shame and indignation he'll feel when he rings the number I've left him and the woman who answers says, "Good afternoon, Greenacres Funeral Home"?) On other occasions I mark the loneliest boy in the room and take a purer kind of pleasure in alleviating his melancholy.

There are other things you ought to know. We don't even use our broomsticks for their ostensible purpose, let alone as a means of nocturnal transport. We do not shoot craps with human teeth. We do not thieve the peckers of men who've spurned us and squirrel them away in glass jars. Think of us as sibyls or seraphs: fearsome, oh yes, but more or less benevolent. I may use magic to retrieve my youth, but when these boys climb into bed with me, they do so unenchanted.



My father lasted longer than average, and so I have two sisters. We are evenly spaced at eleven months: Helena is the eldest; then Morven, who lives with me on the Lower East Side; and then me. Helena is 151 but she still runs a B and B in the house we inherited from our great-auntie Emmeline, the house we grew up in. HARBINGER HOUSE, says the sign beneath the porch light; rather ominous, I'll admit, but the most traumatic thing that ever transpired there involved a holiday turkey that broke out of the oven. Featherless and terrified out of its last wit, our would-be dinner rampaged through the downstairs rooms and sent all the family shrieking for cover before Helena could put an end to it. Good thing our china never breaks.

Blackabbey, the town's called now: a spurious name for a place off the Jersey turnpike. There was a community of Franciscans there at some stage, but who knows why they named it Blackabbey—after all, no plague ever decimated their number. But Blackabbey is a far better name than Harveysville, which is what the town was called up until the First World War. "Harveysville" sounds like a hamletful of inbreds.

Harvey was the name of the innkeeper who supposedly put up George Washington two nights before that great man crossed the Delaware. The inn is still there, stodge central, every wall covered with plaques boasting of its one famous guest who only stopped in for a pint of ale, if he stopped at all. Even in the eighteenth century, on the surface at least, it was a dull little town full of ordinary people.

Since the mid-1950s, however, Blackabbey has been rather renowned for its antiques. Interior designers, ladies of leisure, and middle-aged friends-of-Oscar make the two-hour bus ride south from Manhattan to peruse those quaint and cozy shops, and it's the moneyed sort who fill Helena's B and B every weekend.

This little shopping mecca wasn't there while we were growing up, of course. Back then the mews was known as Deacon's Alley, and there were a bookbinder, a pharmacist, and a few other stores with dust-filmed windows that seemed to be open only one day a week for a quarter of an hour at a time and sold things nobody would have wanted to buy anyway. The streets were unpaved and we walked knee-deep in horse dung.

But our town has more of a sense of humor now than it did in Washington's day. The Blind Pig Gin Mill, which is almost as old as the inn, has a very official-looking plaque by the front door that reads:

Here at the Blind Pig Gin Mill, on the 21st of February 1783, upon the second stool from the end, Alexander Hamilton got piss-ass drunk.

Seems we're the only ones who appreciate the change, living as long as we do.

Signposted from the main street is Blackabbey Mews, where all the shops are. If you turn the corner just after the Harveysville Inn, you'll enter a narrow cobblestone alley with cheerily painted row homes on either side, the first- floor windows full of typewriters, gramophones, and landscapes in gilded frames. White geraniums tumble from the second-floor window boxes. The alley hasn't been paved since the Revolution, so watch out for rogue cobblestones. At the end of the lane is a confectionery-café, my niece Mira's place actually. There are outdoor tables where the aforementioned city folk sip bowls of chilled carrot-ginger soup under an oak tree that is even older than I am.

One store specializes in antique and collectible toys (a set of shiny tin soldiers lined up inside an elliptical railroad track, red painted sleds for decoration only), and others carry racks of moth-eaten theatrical attire and vintage wedding gowns; there's even a tiny haberdashery full of trilby hats. Other stores deal in fine and costume jewelry, rings and earbobs of clear green glass that throw bright spots on the walls in the afternoon light.

But there's only one spot along this row where you can find a seventeenth-century alchemy kit alongside a pack of Garbage Pail Kids trading cards, only one place where you might prick your finger on a stuffed porcupine. Fawkes & Ibis, says the hand-painted sign that swings above the door. Est. 1950. Antiques, Collectibles, Curiosities. And beneath, in much smaller lettering: Ask No Questions. This one is my favorite.

Fawkes and Ibis was the first antiques store here. Harry Ibis is an Irish Jew who hasn't boarded an airplane since the close of the Second World War, and Emmet Fawkes is an Afroed malcontent who hobnobs with grave robbers and maintains an extensive collection of Victorian smut. You'll generally find Fawkes seated on a low stool out on the sidewalk, either chatting with prospective patrons or grumbling to himself about the rodent problem. When you greet him he may answer you, or he may not, and either way you mustn't take it personally. You open the door and part a heavy velvet curtain with dust bunnies flecking the hem, and as you enter the front room you're hit with the smells of stale incense, mothballs, and old men.

The window display never quite typifies the wonderland within: there might be a gilded birdcage full of Christmas ornaments, a Deco tea set, maybe a concertina or a hurdy-gurdy. Venture in, and above your head is the strangest chandelier you'll ever see, a Leuchterweibchen, a wooden mermaid with an enigmatic expression and antlers sprouting from her shoulder blades. I hope nobody ever buys it. The shelves behind the counter are cluttered with molting taxidermies and various items pilfered from med school labs, eyeballs and eardrums lolling about in crusty glass jars, and cork-stopped medicine bottles full of sticky brown gook (fig candy laxative or honey-cherry-balsam compound typewritten on the yellowed labels). There are old leather-bound books in languages neither owner can read, heavy ornate keys to doors that may never be locked (or unlocked) again, gargoyles salvaged from the rubble of architectural progress. Fawkes takes especial pride in a bird he claims is the penultimate dodo.

The place is chockablock, all right, and you might even call it cluttered, but don't dare call it a junk shop. Every object in the room has a history worth knowing, if you only know how to read it. Sometimes the people who've owned the books in this shop leave little clues between the pages, and not just love notes or pressed flowers. You might come upon an unused Amtrak ticket tucked between the pages of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes or a sprinkling of crumbs along the gutter inside The Complete Engravings, Etchings, and Drypoints of Albrecht Dürer. Makes you wonder what kind of person noshes on a salami sandwich over The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Browsing Fawkes and Ibis always gets me feeling a little melancholy, though I suppose that's part of why I adore the place. No, I'll never again wander through the cobbled lanes and crowded markets of the cathedral cities, never sip another green chaud in some Nouveau café with chandeliers knotted in cobwebs and flies in the sugar pots. Our psychic stamina is not without limit, you see. I could poof in and out of public loos from San Francisco to Samarkand, go antiquing to my heart's content, but then there'd be no oomph left over for taking the wrinkles out on a Saturday night. Crooked fingers, crooked priorities; what can I say?

On this particular afternoon I'm on no particular errand, only that I'm home for the weekend and haven't been to Fawkes and Ibis in a while. It's the twenty-third of June, and the air is alive with the scent of honeysuckle and the excitement of children newly sprung from the classroom. The little hellions race one another down the avenue, their smooth limbs and happy faces dappled by the sunshine through the maples, and the sound of their laughter puts a smile on my face.

Mira is out clearing tables, and she gives me a peck on the cheek as I make my way down the alley. There are other cries of "Auntie Eve! How do you do?" though not all the girls who greet me are among Helena's granddaughters. (Helena has three daughters—Rosamund, Deborah, and Marguerite—and six granddaughters in all, and though they are all delightful it's Vega and Mira, daughters of Marguerite, whom I hold most dear.)

As usual, Emmet Fawkes is on his stool muttering to himself—"Satan's foot soldiers are on the march!"—and on cue a squirrel scurries loudly across the roof tiles and an acorn pings off the gutter spout. I hear voices through the heavy velvet curtain, and when I step inside I spot several things on the table beneath the Leuchterweibchen that weren't here last time: a phrenology model, a pair of golliwogs (it's here you'll find the playthings Lucretia Hartmann of Hartmann's Classic Toys won't touch), an armillary sphere with silver contours glinting in the sunlight.

There's another man in his eighties behind the counter, with its bronze crank-model cash register and apotropaic doodads arranged under the glass. He wears a bow tie and gray suspenders over a short-sleeved dress shirt, and you'd know from his coloring that his wispy white hair was red once. On this side of the counter there's a younger, heavier man drumming his fingers on the glass. I can tell by the tone of his voice and the tattered Macy's bag that he's come to make a return. Make an attempt, that is.

"Hello, Evelyn," says Harry Ibis in his usual placid tone, which seems to agitate the man even further. "Lovely day, isn't it?" I murmur my agreement, Harry gives me a wry look over his customer's shoulder, and the man glances at me nervously before continuing his plea.

"My wife is a wreck, Mr. Ibis. She's terrified! Every time she picks up the mirror she sees someone staring at her over her shoulder. Someone who isn't there when she turns around."

Mr. Ibis points to the sign tacked to the shelf above his head:

Absolutely no refunds or exchanges.

"But surely—"

Harry points again, to the line at the bottom of the notice:

No exceptions.

"You were aware of our policy before you made the purchase, Mr. Vandersmith. Buyer's remorse is commonplace in a shop like this. It's the nature of our inventory."

"You aren't going to give me my money back?"

Harry Ibis shakes his head. "I do apologize, Mr. Vandersmith, but if I gave a refund to every customer who changed his mind we'd go out of business."

"What the hell am I supposed to do with it then? I can't bring it back into the house. My wife has already had to go on antianxiety medication!"

"I'd try eBay, if I were you," Harry replies. "You might even get more than you paid for it." Plenty of fools all over the planet willing to pay good money for allegedly haunted bric-a-brac.

The man pulls the mirror out of the bag and thrusts it into Harry's hands. "You don't believe me. You think I'm crazy. Or my wife is. But just you look in the mirror and tell me you don't see him."


"Just look. Just look and tell me you don't see him." Mr. Vandersmith pauses. "He's got big long sideburns and a moustache. And he's got no eyes, just ... empty sockets."

Harry is opening his mouth to tell his customer that he really cannot countenance such a story, that he is not so patient as he looks now he's in his ninth decade of life, but I decide to interrupt. "What a lovely mirror," I say as I approach the counter. "Victorian, is it?"

Mr. Vandersmith nods, suspicious.

I rest my fingertips on the mirror handle. "May I see?"

"I don't know if I should allow you, ma'am," he replies entirely in earnest. "What you see may frighten you extremely."

"Oh, I don't scare easily. Mr. Ibis can tell you so himself. I've been shopping here since the day you opened, haven't I, Harry?"

Harry cocks an eyebrow. "So you have, Evelyn."


Excerpted from Petty Magic by Camille DeAngelis. Copyright © 2010 Camille DeAngelis. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Petty Magic: Being the Memoirs and Confessions of Miss Evelyn Harbinger, Temptress and Troublemaker 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
ReadingWithMartinis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I adore revisionist history. When I picked this book up on a whim and read the description, I was tickled. This book combined revisionist history, witches, magic, and true love. Just a few of my very favorite things!I enjoyed this novel. It was an interesting take on witches and witchcraft. I loved the extended lifetimes of the ¿beldames¿ and their family members. I found it hysterical that the witches travel ¿by loo.¿ Think Harry Potter and traveling by flue, but instead of a chimney, it¿s a toilet. I puffy heart loved the gingerbread replica of the family home at the Winter Solstice, and how the tiny candy inhabitants¿ location in the house mirrored the location of the actual person it represented. This novel was full of tiny details like this and these tiny details made it totally loveable.The plot of the novel was two-fold. There¿s the plot of Evelyn-in-the-past. This aspect of the plot follows Evelyn through her historic travels in Nazi Germany. It is during this time that she meets and falls in love with Jonah, the love of her life. There¿s also the plot of Evelyn-in-the-present. This aspect of the plot deals with Evelyn and her developing relationship with Justin, a man who reminds her entirely too much of Jonah. The two plots run in tandem. Present day events trigger Evelyn¿s remembrance of the events of the past. DeAngelis beautifully weaves the two timelines together to tell one cohesive tale.My only issue with this novel was that it read fairly slowly. I am a very fast reader, but for some reason, this novel took me a very long time to read and it felt like it was dragging on for a long time. That is not to say I didn¿t absolutely enjoy the story, but I think the pacing could haveOverall, I enjoyed this book very much. I would definitely recommend it!
sspare on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Petty Magic is nothing less than a great, lovely, charming, sad, tender, clever, *gem* of a book.To employ the phrase "page turner" is to conjure up mental images of bestselling thrillers, cover art with protagonists hanging from cliffs both literal and metaphorical, and those authors who crank out a book or more each year with a team of ghostwriters fueling the insatiable machine. Petty Magic is a page turner in the original sense -- the plot, the pace, the character development, the tone, the wonderful weaved story itself makes one, very simply, want to keep reading.Each chapter is rich and savory, and ends on just the right point. The characters are familiar and lovable, even while occasionally maddening in forgivable ways. The plot is both fun and somber, funny and emotional, and achieves a perfect balance of tension. In short, this book was masterfully written.DeAngelis has come along way since her last novel, Mary Modern, which was equally creative and well fleshed out. I can't wait to see what's next for this author. One barely dares to hope that her books, already uniquely rich and singular in her genre, can get better from here.
kqueue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Witch Evelyn Harbinger is 149 years old and she spends her retirement years using her petty magic to make herself appear young so that she can seduce young men. In her youth, she used her powers for good as a spy during World War II where she met her true love, Jonah, who did not survive the war. When she meets Justin, she is convinced that he is Jonah reincarnated and decides to have more than a one night stand with him, but what will happen when he learns the truth about her?I thoroughly enjoyed the originality of this book and the wonderful Harbinger sisters. It has many unexpected twists and some quite a bit of humor. I particularly liked the rules of magic that the dames must follow, and the flashbacks to World War II. I chose this book because of Camille DeAngelis' first book [Mary Modern] was so original (though it had some plot holes), and I found that Petty Magic had the same fresh originality without the flaws.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't say I really liked this novel despite the fact that it had a relatively unique storyline mixing modern witchery and flashbacks to WWII. I felt the pace was too slow and the plot was far too predictable. I think it would have been better had the author done more research into modern witchcraft, but those flaws can be overlooked in the name of author's license. It was just a "blah" kind of book and, while it was an easy read, it felt like s bit of a chore. Stephanie Clanahan
EBarry More than 1 year ago
Absolutely fell in love with this book! It was very cleverly done, and you just gotta love a whip-smart heroine! Anyway....go read it now! Would make a TERRIFIC movie!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ChelseaW More than 1 year ago
Miss Evelyn Harbinger is a witch. But not the warty-nose and pointy-hat kind. Evelyn is plain, with the same insecurities as everyone else. Oh, and she's over 140 years old, can travel through toilets, and can do magic. Set during both world wars, Eve is hired by various agencies to work as a spy. During this time, she meets her soul mate Jonas, who's life eventually ends due to wartime causes. However, years later, Eve meets Justin, a split-image of her former love. Could it be possible that Jonas has somehow returned to her? I read Camille DeAngelis' Mary Modern back when it was released in 2007 and absolutely loved it. The premise was neat and the writing was new and exciting. This sophomore book doesn't quite pack the same punch, but I still enjoyed it a lot. The coven of witches reminded me of a group of sweet, kooky old ladies. DeAngelis teases the reader with sex but never shows any of it, and the scenes are yummy nonetheless. My heart ached for Eve's longing to have her former lover again. The best part was the completely swoon-worthy ending.Drool! DeAngelis has a very witty and smart voice, the likes of which I have not seen in quite some time. I loved reading from Eve's POV. It felt like I laughed out loud in almost every chapter. And though the plot spanned across centuries, DeAngelis obviously thought out the smaller details, because the story is tight and wraps up nicely. I am looking forward to her next book!