Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Mystery
Categories: M/M, Wizards/Witches, Nobility
Content Warnings: Highlight to read: Magically-induced attempted suicide, offscreen/pre-novel suicides, reference to previous rapes by now-deceased characters.
Buy it at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Description: When Lord Crane, Lucien Vaudrey, is being forced through dark magic to attempt to take his own life, he hires a magician to help protect him. The magician, Stephen Day, has good reason to hate Crane’s family, but Stephen is devoted to his duty to protect people from harmful magic. Still, Crane is nothing like his father or brother, and as the case becomes even more complicated and unpleasant than it seemed, the two are drawn closely together.
Impression: This was right up my alley. Beautiful characters with fantastic writing and incredible chemistry. Lucien was a perfect rogue of a gentleman, sharp-witted and flamboyant with a perfectly-written charisma and the ability to switch between indolent lordling and hardened smuggler in a heartbeat. And Stephen was understandably stressed and angry but to-the-bone a good person. Their chemistry was instant and felt very believably reluctant, but Lucien’s genuine kindness also made it so I completely bought Stephen’s decision to throw his faith behind Lucien despite the family grudge. (The secondary characters are also fantastic — I’m used to the manservant character often being a bit of a non-entity, but this is a man who has been Lucien’s friend for twenty years, and it shows; I’m glad he’s allowed to have such important roles in the story. Having him be happy to affectionately tell his lord to fuck off is, basically, the ideal.)
KJ Charles’ narrative sense was essentially perfect; mood and setting were both extremely well-established, the prose was a delight to read, and the dialogue often left me laughing out loud. She’s got a deft hand with visuals; I could see and feel the cold and uncomfortable setting of Piper house, clearly imagine how things looked and felt to the characters at all times, from threadbare suits to chewed-raw lips. In addition, the plot was extremely well developed, each individual thread being built up and then woven together deftly, and I found it a very unputdownable book. I had to GM a game yesterday evening and was frantically reading until the start time!
The erotic content was also well-done; the interruptions felt natural or understandable, and by the time they actually are able to get together, it feels like the ideal time. I liked the D&S elements to their relationship and their enthusiasm with it. I’m not generally super big on the “I’ll have you whether you want it or not” type dialogue (not so much for consent issues, since they’re obviously establishing consent & power reversal in these scenes themselves, but out of a sort of contrariness, I think), but it worked with what both characters had established already and actively talked about. Relatedly, the communication between them is great and basically done in my favorite way—whenever there’s a misunderstanding, it’s allowed space to happen, but then they talk about it instead of letting it fester.
Great Victorian paranormal content, a tight plot, lovable characters, and fun narration. Also wizards and magpies. An ideal read and full of everything I like! The 2017 version, which I read, also includes a short side story set after, following up on some of the more magical elements of their new relationship, and was a charming and delightful way to end the book.