Having accidentally read book # 4 first, let me encourage any reader to read this series in order. This one, Merely Magic, is the first and does a splendid job of setting up Rice's remarkable magical world and the two families that gird the series.
The magic of the Malcolm women is unusual, and each one has her own special talent and unique way of looking at the world. Each Ives man is stubborn, arrogant, and scientifically-minded -- what could they possibly have in common? The two families are consistently intriguing and their individual antics, much less the inevitable combustion when they meet, are vastly entertaining. Add an excellent romance, and there is much to enjoy in this delightful book.
There are occasions when Drogo's arrogance is irritating and Ninian's submission is annoying, but these character flaws make them more realistic, and one can appreciate the difficulty in making a realtionship between opposites work. The superstition of the villagers and their resulting snubbing plays honestly. There are some historical gaffes, but all in all, it's a great read.