The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles that is.
My grounding in historical fiction came from Georgette Heyer + my Nan initially ,then as I got older I discovered a love for all things Victorian. I live in a Victorian house that after 15 years we are still doing up, and after marrying a modern renaissance man have realised that he has become a Victorian father. So really my predisposition should be historical fiction, but for a really long time I have avoided it.
The Magpie Lord was recommended via a Goodreads friend but I studiously avoided the reviews, I sometimes feel that I don’t actually need to read the book after some of them,and don’t get me started on the interminable gifs. I knew that it was a m/m historical book an that was really it.
So I started it on a Sunday night, and had to ration my reading thereafter by alternating with ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’ because I wanted to make it last.
Some authors are wordsmiths and can make the mundane sparkle, some build characters that are so believable that you want them as friends, some can plot intensely and some are funny & witty – KJ Charles is all of these and then some.
There is no extraneous language, no unnecessary plotting, this is a really tight book, which is so truly pleasant to read. Set in a Victorian England which is recognisable and familiar but slightly different, as magic exists within it. The book involves a magical practitioner ,Stephen Day, coming to the aid of the son of his late fathers enemy by determining who is trying to kill him via magical means.
Stephen is a strong character, although slight in build he has a very moral centre. Lucien Vaudrey, Lord Crane is ‘an overheated fantasy of a smuggler in the exotic East’ and is almost, a quintessential rake. The relationship between them is so beautifully done and equal, what could have been a very predictable rich alpha scenario is turned on it’s head, who is protecting who ?
There is no instant anything, the story builds slowly allowing the reader to relate to both the protagonists and also to the secondary characters. The air of menace and anticipation also builds so well that at one stage I was wringing my hands (not an unusual look for the Circle line).
The use of language is so very clever, evocative of Victoriana yet contemporary and funny, I think I had a smile on my face when reading this more than any other book that I have read recently.
I can’t recommend this enough, there is a short -Interlude with Tattoos, which is free, and the second installment A Case of Possession was published 28th Jan – for once I am exercising self control. I am going to finish Better Angels before I start it (that may or may not be true).
I have been very taken with George Ezra as well, and I think that this is fitting companion – from Did you hear the rain
Oh, did I send a shiver
Down your spine?
Well I do it all the time
It’s a little trick of mine
Did I make you shake your knees
Did I make him spill his wine