Favorite Quote: Randolph let go then, driving into him as though fucking could make everything all right, and for a few seconds, as he shot and shuddered, it did.
Reviewed by Tracey
Archaeologist Saul Lazenby has been all but unemployable since his disgrace during the War. Now he scrapes a living working for a rich eccentric who believes in magic. Saul knows it’s a lot of nonsense…except that he begins to find himself in increasingly strange and frightening situations. And at every turn, he runs into the sardonic, mysterious Randolph Glyde.
Randolph is the last of an ancient line of arcanists, commanding deep secrets and extraordinary powers as he struggles to fulfill his family duties in a war-torn world. He knows there’s something odd going on with the haunted-looking man who keeps turning up in all the wrong places. The only question for Randolph is whether Saul is victim or villain.
Saul hasn’t trusted anyone in a long time. But as the supernatural threat grows, along with the desire between them, he’ll need to believe in evasive, enraging, devastatingly attractive Randolph. Because he may be the only man who can save Saul’s life—or his soul. (Blurb)
England has given the rest of the world some pretty wonderful things…everything from cheddar cheese to the Beatles, and it has also given us some wonderful writers. I think I’ve found another writer to add to the list, K.J. Charles. I would have never thought that I would find reading a historical romance novel, and a paranormal one to boot so riveting, but once I started this book, I read it straight through. This is Charles’s start of a new series…thank God, because I wasn’t ready for this one to end. I’ve read her A Charm of Magpies series just recently, and I thought it was wonderful, so I was really looking forward to jumping into this one. I’m finding that every book of hers which I pick up makes me fall in love with her characters and her style of writing. I am so hooked, that I hate to even think about the long wait for the next book in the series. I understand that this is a follow-up to The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, but I haven’t read it, so I’m not sure how it ties into this book, but this one can be read without reading the other. I can tell you, I will be going back to read the Feximal book as soon as possible.
This book is set in England, after the end of WWI. It’s set in a world where magic is pervasive, but the general population is unaware of this force, and a group of men, called the Green Men, work with the magic to keep England safe. Charles builds the world in which the magic lives seamlessly with the normal world. Some writers have a difficult time world building, but Charles hits the right notes in this book. There are believers and practitioners of magic, and then the general population, like Saul Lazenby, who live their lives blithely unaware of this world. Saul is a trained archeologist, who was tried and convicted of treason after the war. His crime was a crime of loving the wrong man, not of acting treasonously against England, but he was convicted, sent to prison and disowned by his family anyway. He really is a shattered soul, and has lived his life since the conviction with quiet determination and a stiff upper lip, he feels he deserves everyone’s scorn and derision. He has taken work where he could get it, with a flighty, seemingly unstable man who does believe in the mystical. As his boss sends Saul on seemingly silly errands, things he can’t really explain keep happening and there is one constant to these events…the presence of a mysterious man named Randolph Glyde. Saul finds himself attracted to Randolph, and he is aware Randolph returns the attraction, but he buries that under a weight of self-punishment. He really doesn’t believe that he deserves happiness again after so stupidly falling for the wrong man before, but he does yearn for it.
“He wanted the touch of fingers, and a sympathetic voice, and someone with whom to laugh, or talk, or be silent. He wanted to know that someone thought well of him again; to feel for someone in return. And for the first time in years, he found himself believing that, one day, he might.”
Randolph is a Green Man and is from a family which has been involved in magic for generations. He is my favorite kind of hero…the grumpy, taciturn man who is just arrogant enough to be interesting. I do like my men complicated, and Randolph fits the bill perfectly.
“…I’ve been too damned busy, and I’ve too much to hide, and I dislike most people intensely anyway. Sam Caldwell tells me I have no idea how to conduct normal human relations.” “Well, I agree with his observation, but you’re very much my type,” Saul said. “If supercilious, cryptic, and devastatingly attractive is a type.”
I love the bantering between these men and the dry humor that emerges as they get to know each other.
“Would you care for a drink?”
“Yes, I bloody would.”
“Will dry sherry do?”
“If it has alcohol in it.”
The story does start out slow, but I think that is true of all books which require world building…it just takes a while to get to where the action can happen. The tension builds throughout the book, romantic tension along with the suspenseful and dangerous magical tension. I don’t know whether Charles used any local folklore to base her book on, but the story that developed was so interesting. The amount of tension she drew just in a scene based on a road surrounded by fields is amazing.
The relationship between the two men is hot, sexy and understated at the same time, while also being almost unbearably sweet. You really feel for these two men…you feel their loneliness, their pain, and their wants. There is the stereotypical British reserve in the dialogue between the men…even when the dialogue is in the men’s heads.
“Intrigued. Charmed, even. He liked Saul, very much; he trusted him; he valued his friendship, delighted in his company, wanted to talk to him, ached for his body, needed the smile in those dark eyes to remind him why he bothered to keep on. Randolph had a feeling that “taken with” wasn’t actually the term for it at all.”
Even the protestations of love between the men aren’t the normal words you expect to read, again, there is the British understatement thing going on.
“I love you, you damned inconvenient turner-up in all the wrong places, and it’s only right you should know, and–well, good luck with that. Ah, you aren’t obliged to reciprocate,” Randolph added. “I just thought I’d mention it.”
The romance is slow to build, but that type of relationship fits the book. Even with the slow heat, it is emotionally satisfying as it emerges. It is charming and sweet, and your heart can’t help but root for these two men to find their happiness. They become friends as well as lovers, and also partners in magic. Saul ends up with a magical family to replace the family that disowned him, and the characters which make up this family are drawn just as finely as the characters of Saul and Randolph, just not in as much detail. I am so looking forward to seeing and following up on these characters in future books.
All in all, this is a really great book. I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves, romance, suspense, and history.