My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I absolutely adored Allie’s Magic in Manhattan Collection: Spellbound / Starcrossed / Wonderstruck with its 20s setting and a unique system of paranormal abilities and its Film Noir evoking mystery.
But this spin-off? OMG this spin-off is EVERYTHING. I am so in love with Sebastian and Wesley Collins aka Lord Fine.
Both men have been through some serious traumas and are dealing with the fall out. Sebastian was kept for three years as a prisoner through the use of blood magic and forced to use his abilities to harm others, he’s suffering with serious PTSD (accurately referred to as Shell Shock here in this world) that he can’t even acknowledge.
Wes was an officer during the War and a sharpshooter, he’s done things, and ordered his men to do them, that he cannot forget.
On top of that, Wes was dumped by his lover Arthur (see Spellbound) for an antiquarian half his age (Rory you are utterly delightful) and he’s only the Viscount Fine because his older brother was killed in the conflict.
He’s prickly, rude, entitled, snobbish and oh so very much in need of someone to love.
Thrown together almost by accident, these two former “villains” of the previous series both feel like they can never atone – in Wes’ case he really doesn’t want to atone for kissing Arthur in front of Rory either 😁 ) but both will find that fate has other ideas in store.
Allie takes the reader to my part of the world – beautiful Yorkshire, York and its imposing Gothic Minster firmly on the horizon – and then leads them into a high-paced, tension-filled ride of an adventure which also brings some old faces along with it.
It was lovely to see Jade and Zhang too, both as committed to each other as they were in the previous books, and we get to catch up with Seb’s cousin Isabel and her lover Molly, now both ensconced in Paris for the World’s Fair.
The villain is truly villainous, his sidekick is mad as a box of frogs, and I loved how Allie took a mythology which has a very strong Yorkshire connection – that of Dracula – and made it into the basis for a twisted paranormal’s very deadly power.
I won’t spoiler anything about the actual plot itself, only to say that it had everything I want to read in a romantic suspense, and the relationship element of this book is even stronger than Arthur and Rory’s.
It’s also more steamy and I was so grateful for that. My one criticism of the previous series had been how the intimacy between Arthur and Rory was never seen on page, other than odd kisses and the beginnings of their amorous encounters, before fading to black.
Here we not only get some of the best UST I’ve read in a long time, but Wes is also a bit of a secret Dominant (not in a true kink way though, but he has a very powerful personality and a need to “take care” of someone) and Sebastian is all for giving himself over to someone else to make decisions for him.
Wes is an arse, he’ll tell you that quite proudly, but his growth and change once he meets Sebastian is a wonderful thing to read. He doesn’t change FOR him but BECAUSE of him.
Sebastian is the biggest (and most dangerous) cinnamon bun with a marshmallow soul, he’s so desperate to atone for things which were beyond his control that you want to wrap him up in a fluffy blanket and never let the world hurt him any more.
The first time they finally kiss is stunningly effective in the narrative. It’s an understandable slow burn but oh my lord, is it worth the wait! There aren’t loads of sex scenes, the story doesn’t really need it, but when they happen, they’re beautifully written.
As you can tell, I absolutely adored this book. Allie has such a grasp on her plots that before you can blink, you’ve read half the book and it’s gone midnight 🤣 I did not want to put this one down from the minute I started reading it and that’s the mark of a wonderful writer.
I hope this isn’t the end of this wonderful world Allie has created. I would happily while away more hours with this bunch of disparate people time and time again.
#ARC kindly received from the author via Carina Press on NetGalley in return for an honest and unbiased review