First of all, if you like KJ Charles and Cat Sebastian, you may like Spellbound. It is in fact a paranormal historical romance, and more. It is gloriously queer and diverse and heartfelt. For a historical romance, the setting and time period is unusual – New York City in 1925. Close enough that it feels almost familiar, but far enough away that we believe the social barriers that keep Arthur and Rory apart.
I really loved this book, but before we get into how much I loved this book, I’m going to talk about the one thing I didn’t love and why I should get over it. If this were a tv show, which it definitely should be, I would have no problem listening to the characters’ accents. I hate reading accents, even if they are necessary. Reading accents is a chore. Rory has a lower class accent that reflects his lack of education. I hated reading it, but it needed to be there. The class difference between Rory and Arthur is an enormous barrier between them.
Arthur “Ace” Kenzie comes from a wealthy, well connected political family in New York. As a soldier in Europe during WWI, he discovered magic exists and though he has no ability himself, he is part of a group of people seeking to protect the world from dangerous magical artifacts. His compatriots are Jade, a Black woman who is a pants wearing, speakeasy owning, badass spy, and Zhang a Chinese American man who can walk the astral plane. As Arthur is trying to learn more about an artifact he encounters Rory Brodigan and completely underestimates him. Rory can see the history of an object by touching it. They start off badly, but apparently the way to Arthur’s heart is to tell him to fuck off while being an adorable waif.
The two team up to intercept a dangerous artifact. Rory is grumpy and suspicious, but all in in saving the world. Arthur is an over protective cinnamon roll who thinks he’s got everything figured out. Rory upends all of his preconceptions and his desire to shield Rory from harm goes into overdrive.
One of the things that sometimes makes me uncomfortable with women writing m/m romance is that the portrayal of masculinity can be weirdly heteronormative except with more open communication about feelings. Therin’s characters and the world she writes them into feels more complex than that. Rory is not big and manly, but he’s also not delicate in anything other than appearance. Arthur is big and manly – the very picture of a brave soldier, but Therin has given him a depth and complexity beyond his muscles and bravery. Therin writes her world with layers of complexity. She gives it a richness that makes me eager for many more books.
The next book, Starcrossed is due out May 18th.