Rory scrambled to his feet, fumbling for his glasses in their spot on the nightstand, and dug frantically for the business card he’d shoved in his pocket when he’d stormed out of the shop. Clutching it tight in his bleeding fingers, he bolted to the first-floor common level and the party telephone on a small table in the hall.
By the fifth ring Rory had slumped to the floor in despair, back to the wall and knees curled to his chest, the white-knuckled hand holding the receiver trembling—
“This is Ace.” The words were thick with sleep and unmasked annoyance. “And so help me, at this house, this better be the Queen.”
Ace’s voice snapped to wakefulness. “Rory?”
“I—I saw—“ Rory’s voice broke. He couldn’t banish the scene from his mind, the death playing out like a twisted moving picture. “I saw a murder.”
On the other side of the phone, Arthur sucked in a breath.
“There was a woman—“ Rory tried to explain. “—and a man drew a knife—“ He made another chocked sob. “I can’t go to the police, they’ll think I’m mad, I’ll be locked up again—“
“No,” Arthur said immediately. “No, you won’t be, I won’t let that happen—“
Rory screwed his eyes shut and let Arthur’s reassurances wash over him. He didn’t hear the words themselves, just the deep voice that drove away the monster in his mind and the promises that calmed his racing heart.
“—so they’d have to get though me first, and I am an excellent fortress,” Arthur said. “Where are you?”
Rory ran a hand over his face, letting out a shaky breath. He could answer that. He knew exactly where he was, and when he was, and who he was talking to. “My boarding house.”
“Good. Stay there.”
“Because I’m coming.”
I’m not a romance reader. And still, I’ve read my share of romances – usually disguised as something else. I’ve read many cosy mysteries which were actually romances with an idea of mystery. I’ve occasionally read historical novels which were really romances with the barest sense of a historical context.
It is usually quite a disappointing experience.
Spellbound is a romance, there’s no question about that. But it is also a very good fantasy (with a dieselpunk inclination, I should add) as well as a very nice historical novel. And these are essential parts of the story, not some convenient disguise.
I had no problem loving this book.
There’s magic in this version of 1925 Manhattan, secret magic unknown to the majority of people. Magic people conceal their abilities to almost everyone, especially when they are young and inexperienced – not to mention secluded and scared – as Rory. Magic can be dangerous and very difficult to wield.
But there are also normal human beings like Arthur who live and act in close contact with the magic world. Besides, as someone says, Arthur’s charm is almost like magic.
Rory and Arthur are remarkable characters, with great personalities and a strong drive. They also have a sense of humour, which is always a bonus. Because of them, I felt immediately at home inside the story and I deeply cared about what happened. Right away, it was clear that the romance was about them. It has all the characteristics of a romance (including the exaggerations I tend to dislike), but their relationship was also very much about personal growth. That’s why, even as a non-romance reader, I could enter the story and stay firmly there.
The fantasy plot is strong and would carry the story even without the romance (by this I mean that it sustains itself beautifully, as a good fantasy story does). It centres around relics – very powerful, very rare magical objects – and the fight – partly grounded in personal issues – to conquer them. In this post WWI world, relics and their power have a sinister light to them. The war is over, but what would happen is someone could put their hands on something as powerful as a relic? I can’t wait to see what they will evolve into in the following novels in the series, because I sense some great secret conspiracy ahead. Seriously, how can I resist that?
There is a very diverse cast of characters here, and I loved how the author handled it. I’ve read a lot of novels in recent years that used diversity as a badge. Not something I appreciate. Here, diversity is a mere matter of life. It simply exists, just like humans being and their personality.
Can’t wait to read more in this series.
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