First of all, Thank you, again, llamareadbooks for gifting me this book in the Cannonball Book Exchange! A book that combines several genres I enjoy was almost guaranteed to be a hit but it is the beautiful writing that makes this such a wonderful read.
You look like a Turner painting and I want to learn your textures with my fingertips. You are the most fascinating thing in this beautiful house. I’d like to introduce my fist to whoever taught you to stop talking about the things that interest you. Those were not the things one blurted out to a friend. They were their own cradles of magic, an expression of the desire to transform one thing into another.”
Robin went still with the contact. Edwin moved his fingers, a light brushing back and forth, somewhere between comfort and invitation and apology. And admission, even in his own head: I am nothing like you, and yet I feel more myself with you. The word inked by a certain hand on Edwin’s heart was affinity. It was almost enough to make him bolt from the room.”
Robin (Sir Robert Blyth, a minor baronet) went into the civil service to appease his parents’ need to be boastful about their son. At the start of the book, he has been suddenly transferred to the Office of Special Domestic Affairs and Complaints. With no explanation of what the job entails he is at a loss for what his job actually is. On Robin’s first day, Edwin Courcey comes to the office for his scheduled meeting with Reggie (Reginald) Gatling. Edwin is special liaison to the OoSDAaC and shocked to find Robin where Reggie is supposed to be. What follows is a painful moment as Edwin has to explain that magic exists and the OsSDAaC’s purpose is to keep watch for possible magic exposure to the mundane world. Only a person with prior knowledge of magic should be in Robin’s position and this is all clearly a mistake by the Home Office. The obvious action is to have Robin replaced with someone more suitable. That becomes impossible as he is quickly ensnared in a devious plot that has already cost Reggie his life. Robin and Edwin find themselves in a race against time to find a magical object and uncover the truth of what happened to Reggie.
From the beginning Robin and Edwin find themselves in a complicated relationship. There is an instant physical attraction to each other but homosexuality is a crime in Edwardian England. Edwin has an immediate dislike of Robin, as he embodies all the traits that Edwin has come to despise in others, due to how he was treated by his brother and others at school. Robin flounders in a world where the rules have suddenly changed and his only guide is distant, keeping him removed. Overtime, they come to rely on each other for their individual strengths and attraction grows.
I enjoyed this book on every level of the story. The mystery is engaging, the magic system is interesting, and the romance is a slow burn. I highly recommend it if any of those appeal to you!
Bonus Ponyo content. Unfortunately, she is out of focus as she crashed my photo session and wouldn’t stay still for a better shot!