I love cheap and tasty wine, reading stories about men falling in love and making good food…Here is where I mix all three.
The level of awesomeness that is this series, really, truly, I can’t put into words. A Case of Possession, the second installment in the A Charm of Magpies Series by KJ Charles is just as good as the first, and THAT is one hard act to follow. In this story we go back to 19th century London, and immediately set off in another fast paced adventure with Lucien Crane, Stephen Day and Merrick, Lord’s Crane exceedingly efficient henchman, and sidekick extraordinaire. This trio did not give me a second of down time during the story. But we didn’t just get action and adventure, with just a bit of smexing to whet our appetite…No, Oh no…Because Lord Crane he is a MAN with a plan, and all of it involves Stephen Day being his. ALL his…SO! There was quite a bit of romance in this story and I gulped it down like it was All You Can Drink Day at the pub, and I was first in line at the bar…It was DEElicious.
Before I get into things…The wine. This post will be food-less since the rats in book, (as KJ warned me they would!) suppressed my appetite a bit. So, just wine on this one, but I promise I have a WINNER for you. As I’ve mentioned, I can’t get enough of Lucien and Stephen, if I had it my way, I’d get a book a week. Alas, KJ Charles does not live to write me books, which means anticipation was HIGH for this one. I had to pair it with something extra special, one of my most favorite reds. I selected the 2011 Barista Pinotage from South African wine maker Bertus Fourie. This wine. THIS WINE. It’s a HUGE splurge for me, it’s close to $16.00 a bottle, about $7-$8 above what I normally spend. Which makes it PERFECT for this story, because anything I read with Lucien and Stephen is exactly that, an absolute treat. The strong coffee tones, and hints of cherry in this wine make it decadent and unique. The coffee angle is also very much apropos, since the story is linked in a way to the land of Sumatra, a close neighbor of the island of Java, which is known by most of the world as one of the finest producers of highland coffee…Ok enough with the wine, back to the story.
We catch up with Lord Crane and Stephen about four months after they barely escaped with their lives in the English countryside. Lucien and Crane have continued their affair, and things have gotten very deep for Lucien. He is far gone on Stephen. The little witch mystifies him, and frankly he can’t get enough of the man. Stephen though, he’s elusive, he comes and goes without notice and it’s KILLING Lucien…I mean they are both free men, there has been no talk of commitment, and given that the danger of being caught engaging in ‘unnatural acts’ could cost Stephen dearly, Lucien does not want to push…But god, HE WANTS TO.
Stephen is stubborn and prideful, he has learned the hard way too many times that he can only rely on himself. So, he is independent, he asks for nothing. They enjoy each other very much, but Stephen keeps his distance. It’s frustrating because in their time alone they are like two halves of a whole. They come together so exquisitely, and Lucien KNOWS they can be so much more. If only Stephen gave in a little, let Lucien in his life just a bit.
Lucien’s time to prove himself to Stephen comes as a result of a strange and terrifying pest wreaking havoc in Limehouse (the Chinese slums). Rats. BIG, enormous rats, the stuff of nightmares are showing up and doing harm…Some occult forces are obviously at play. Stephen and his team are on the case, and when their usual Mandarin translator is no longer available (he has apparently taken extortion and blackmail as his new enterprise) Stephen asks for Lucien’s and Merrick’s assistance. Things go south fast, but they are in it together, and Lucien WILL NOT let Stephen or his colleagues down.
This story has many twists and turns, there a two overarching stories that meet right in the middle of the rat mess, and both Lucien and Stephen are right at the center of it. The mystery and the horror that were so well done in The Magpie Lord are just as thrilling this time. In addition we got some fabulous lore from the island of Sumatra, making for an even more intriguing and complex adventure. Lucien and Merrick had to call upon on their experiences and contacts from the Far East to come to Stephen’s aid, which made for some excellent storytelling. I love that we see another side of 19th century London and not just, The Ton, that is revisited again and again in period novels. I loved the time in the Trader’s club that Lucien frequents, his old stories from the years in China, as well as the tales from all the former China ex-pats that Lucien socializes with.
We also got to meet Stephen’s other associates in the practitioner’s league, and I REALLY hope we get more of them. They are like some sort 19th century Britain version of the Fantastic Four…Stephen, the young but undeniably superior sorcerer. Esther the older and resolute partner. Ms. Saint with her disguises and fast moves, and finally Janossi, the junior magician who makes up for his inexperience with a lot of courage. This group was outstanding and gave me some of the most exciting moments of the book.
There is horror and there is fine mystery here to be sure, but the romance was powerful here as well, and there was NO holding back with the erotica either. I LOVE Lucien’s character, there are so many dichotomies to him, it’s almost like he thrives in the grays. Black or White are just not part of his landscape, and that makes him SO WILLING to be a better man for people he finds worthy. So even though he is a LOT jaded and cynical, with Stephen he is tender. Stephen does not want the tenderness mind you, or the care taking, but Lucien wants to give him softness and hotness and happy. His little witch’s life has too many sharp edges already. I LOVE them together, and look forward to much from this fabulous world Ms. Charles has created.
Absolutely recommend, and if you have time take a moment to read Interlude With Tattoos (a short which is free on Smashwords) before reading this one, it will give you valuable insight.