CBR Bingo: Rec’d
I read Witchmark by C.L. Polk for the HEA book club at The Ripped Bodice. In this world, magic is real and only wielded by the nobles. They use it to control the weather and maintain order in society. Anyone who shows the mark of a witch is dangerous and somehow uses evil magic, unlike the nobles. Our protagonist Miles has returned from the war and works at a hospital. The enemy country has surrendered and all the soldiers are coming home. But some of them have been coming home broken…and homicidal. He is desperately trying to treat shell-shocked soldiers, inspired by our own WWI. He has been hiding his nobility and using his magical abilities in secret. That is until he comes across a poisoned man brought in by a beautiful man. Before the poisoned man dies, he transfers his magical power to Miles and asks him to solve his murder. The last thing Miles wants is to bring attention to his magic. In this universe, those with the witch mark (like what the stranger has given him) are thrown into asylums. But Miles’ conscience won’t let him ignore a murder. Also, the gorgeous samaritan wants to help for reasons of his own. The police don’t want to be involved, especially when the man’s records go missing. It’s up to Miles and the stranger to follow the clues. Before much progress is made, Miles unexpectedly reunites with his sister. She wants him to come home and do his duty to their family. The problem is that means Miles must marry who they say among other unhappy things. They don’t want him exploring his feelings for this stranger. For the good of society, they want to use his magical powers whenever it’s convenient for them. Before long, the murderers set their sights on Miles, and an even bigger conspiracy is revealed.
This M/M romance may be a slow burn, but you can feel the heat between Miles and the stranger. It’s the world-building that really won me over. The caste-inspired magical power system is intriguing. The rich are not above sucking away your magic and controlling your life. Somehow, having queer dalliances is ok, but you still have to marry well. This is modeled after Edwardian England after all. And all the while, the world is powered by 1900s electricity and lanterns. The pacing could have been better, but it’s easily forgiven for the first book in a series. I actually wished this book was longer! The peace treaty and war details seemed rushed. We know there’s mischief afoot and Miles has to do something about it. I plan to continue the series and see what else this world has to offer.
Give Witchmark a read if you love fantasy romance, male longing glances, and magical conspiracies.
More of my writing can be found on my blog, Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict.