Just finished The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles. Here are my initial impressions, though I might revise them after thinking about the book a little more.
Let me start by saying that I love Charles’ Society of Gentleman series. I’ve reread the quartet of books–the quadrilogy?–numerous times. A Gentleman’s Position was my favorite read for 2017. Possibly this decade.
But I did not really much like The Magpie Lord. Just generally, the world building seemed a little too on-the-fly, with new powers and explanations appearing as the plot demanded (the same gripe I had with Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London series, where I finally gave up trying to understand the paranormal aspect). A lot of events, some unneeded (dying horses, anyone?) were thrown into a little over 200 pages. Could have done with tighter editing, in that respect.
My main problem, though, was that I felt like I was reading an adult-teen relationship, not a relationship between two grown men. Moreover, while the “adult” was attractive and elegant, the teen wasn’t even particularly attractive or healthy looking. I was uncomfortable with this relationship and could not understand Crane’s quickly developed attraction to Day. Unless Crane likes teen-age boys, I guess, since IMO, that’s what Stephen basically looks like.
Now, Crane is in his mid-30s. 37, maybe? And while Stephen Day tells us he is 28 (and at one point they are kissing and “stubble scraped against stubble,” so we know he grows some sort of beard), look at the other descriptions of Stephen throughout this book:
- “Short, for one thing, barely five feet tall, narrow shouldered, significantly underweight, hollow-cheeked. He had reddish-brown hair cut unfashionably close…”
- “Crane stroked his fingers possessively over the small chin. “You really do. Lovely boy.”” (This is when Stephen tells him, and the reader, “I’m twenty-eight.”)
- “…starveling frame, his thin, pale, worried face and horribly short hair…”
- “He looked very young, sleep smoothing out the worry lines round his eyes. He also looked very small and ver thin. He resembled a schoolboy, not a magician or a protector.”
What healthy 30-something man wants to have sex with someone who looks like a starving child?
I imagine KJ Charles would be aghast that anyone would see the relationship this way, as I don’t think this is what she had in mind at all. After all, she ensures that we know that Stephen is 28. Plus, he’s a magician with weird powers–one step away from being a supernatural being, perhaps, right? In which case, he could theoretically look like a sprite or a leprechaun or an elf and be strangely attractive to an average human like Crane. This would not be the first paranormal romance where that happened.
But for me, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then I’m going to think of it as a duck. So the romance did not work for me.
I will say one thing about other posts I’ve read that decry the book on the grounds that Crane is engaging in sexual activities with Day presumably against the smaller man’s will. I disagree completely. It’s made very clear in the book–including during conversations between Crane and Day–that Stephen Day could easily overcome any manhandling by Crane any time he wanted to, using his practitioner powers. He could harm Crane if he chose to. So there is no imbalance of power here, as some posters claim. The thing is, Day wants to be dominated, and Crane knows it, and Day loves that Crane “gets” him, that is, that Crane can see that Day loves being overpowered, that it arouses him. At no time did I feel that there was any real non-consent. That’s just my opinion.
As always, YMMV