Thankfully KJ Charles has obtained the rights to her books that had been published by Samhain, which closed down earlier this year. After reading The Magpie Lord and loving it, I had been anxious to read the rest of the series – now she’s self publishing and I quickly purchased books two and three!
After Lucien, Lord Crane, and Stephen Day, paranormal justiciar, met and fell into a passionate lusty affair in the country, they have returned to London. If you haven’t read the first book, some of their story may be confusing. In short, Lucien is the descendant of a powerful magician, and Stephen is able to channel this during the sexual encounters. Of course, they can’t go about telling people this, due to the fact that homosexual relations were considered criminal back then. If Lucien had his way, he’s be on a boat back to China, where sexual orientation is no big deal. However, Stephen has his work in London, and Lucien can’t imagine a life without him.
So Lucien is dealing with his business during a hot London summer, trying not to fret when Stephen disappears for long stretches of time, when he is approached by a blackmailer who threatens to expose the illicit affair. Naturally, Lucien’s first response is to refuse to pay; after all, he grew up in the slums of Shanghai and he knows how to handle a threat like this. Meanwhile, Stephen is dealing a crisis of rats – huge, nasty rats that may have magical properties. He turns to Lucien to assist in translating some discussions with a local shaman, and in doing so, both men are pulled into an ancient curse of gruesome proportions. There is a tie to an incident in Shanghai, with a missing young girl and a case of revenge.
There are several new characters in this book, notably Leonora Hart, a young widow that Lucien became friends with in Shanghai. Her deceased husband had been a smuggler, and Lucien’s first boss, saving Lucien from certain death. She is also targeted by the blackmailer, and as he attempts to help her, the rats attack her and nearly kill her. He has to call in Stephen and his associates to save her, and in the course of that, the bond between the two men is exposed. They will have to deal with the fall out from this, while at the same time, trying to shut down the plague of rats before the situation gets any further out of hand.
Ms Charles writes the relationship between the two men so well – you can feel Lucien’s growing angst that he might lose Stephen, and his vulnerability is new to him. He’s still charming and sexy as hell, and still is a demanding lover in bed, but you can see that his relationship with Stephen is evolving. And he finds that he likes it:
“I like to make you know your master,” Crane said. “It’s only fair. The rest of the time you’ve got me so thoroughly enslaved, I might as well be wearing a collar with your name on it.”
Parts of the book are definitely not for the squeamish – the rat plagues are very unsettling to be honest! I mean, who likes rats? I enjoyed the book immensely, and I’m looking forward to the next one!