My January Reading Log

Fiction:
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton is a bitingly satirical alternate Victorian England in which women have learned to make their houses fly, and of course have used this ability to become pirates, and also spend a lot of time trying to assassinate each other. It’s also a romance, though the satirical tone is maintained throughout, with the heroine gradually becoming aware of what her feelings mean. Plump Queen Victoria, who talks to a portrait of the deceased Prince Albert, makes an appearance and ends up playing a surprisingly large role in the plot.

Outcrossing by Celia Lake is first in the Mysterious Charm series, romances set in an alternate 1920s England whose magical population live alongside the oblivious non-magical population. This first installment is set in the New Forest, which has ponies! I wanted a lot more ponies than I got. However, I appreciated the cross-class issues and sadly brief portrayal of village magical ritual. The romance was sweet and people actually talked to each other to resolve their problems.

Goblin Fruit by Celia Lake is second in the Mysterious Charm series and features a very clear homage to Dorothy Sayers’ Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane in Geoffrey, Lord Carillon and Elspeth Penhallow. There’s more magical worldbuilding happening, and brief appearances by nonhuman magical beings, which made me want a lot more of this world.

Magician’s Hoard by Celia Lake is third in the Mysterious Charm series, a fantasy romance set in an alternate 1920s Britain with a secret magical society. Widowed heroine Proserpina, called Pross, runs a bookstore to support her and her daughter, but also does some paid research. Hero Ibis (a nickname; his actual name is Thutmose, and he’s half-Egyptian) ends up assigned to help her because his boss wants him out of the way of Shenanigans. They respect each other’s minds and that is very sexy and sweet; they help each other move forward with their lives.

Wards of the Roses by Celia Lake is fourth in the Mysterious Charm series, a 1920s alternate England with magic. Kate is a middle class Guard (magical police, essentially) who misses the more complex work she did during WWI; Giles is an upper class mathematician who was blinded during World War One (or this world’s version of it). Both are fascinated by puzzle solving. They end up working together to gain entry to a magical house has suddenly reappeared. As in the previous books in this series, the two of them help each other to move forward with their lives, stronger together than apart.

Out of Character by Annabeth Albert was a lightweight m/m contemporary romance, labelled New Adult, between a gamer and a former jock, which I read because of the fandom element. I still seem to be in the mode of being less interested in stories about people in their twenties coming of age, so though the book has a lot to recommend it, I found myself skimming parts, especially angst and sex scenes. But I think if you play, for example, the Magic the Gathering card game, you would enjoy this book a lot.

Spellbound by Allie Therin is also set in an alternate 1920s with magic, this time in New York City. There’s a somewhat complicated backstory about magical objects which leads to non-magical but wealthy and powerful Arthur, nicknamed Ace, encountering psychometric Theodore, who’s assumed the name of Rory for his role as the nephew of his employer, Mrs. Brodigan. In addition, there’s a Chinese man who walks the astral plane, a Black woman bootlegger telekinetic, and some magical enemies. There was a lot going on, perhaps too much, probably because this book was setting up a series. It was fun, but I am not sure I’ll read the rest of the books.

Division Bells by Iona Datt Sharma is a short but lovely male/male romance set in the British government after Brexit. Ari is a career bureaucrat, Jules is a special advisor, or “spad,” sent to the job by his wealthy father to jumpstart a career. Their romance is tangled up with Jules coming into his own and Ari navigating grief from a recent, painful loss. I learned a lot about British parliamentary procedure, and would have been happy to learn more, if taught by this author. Recommended.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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