Upcoming Release Book Review: A Fashionable Indulgence by KJ Charles

Thanks to an early review copy from Loveswept, I’m excited to be able to share my thoughts on this book before it’s released!

A Fashionable Indulgence, by K.J. Charles

Title: A Fashionable Indulgence
Author: KJ Charles
Publisher: Loveswept
Release Date: August 11, 2015
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: A

Blurb:

In the first novel of an explosive new series from K. J. Charles, a young gentleman and his elegant mentor fight for love in a world of wealth, power, and manipulation.

When he learns that he could be the heir to an unexpected fortune, Harry Vane rejects his past as a Radical fighting for government reform and sets about wooing his lovely cousin. But his heart is captured instead by the most beautiful, chic man he’s ever met: the dandy tasked with instructing him in the manners and style of the ton. Harry’s new station demands conformity—and yet the one thing he desires is a taste of the wrong pair of lips.

After witnessing firsthand the horrors of Waterloo, Julius Norreys sought refuge behind the luxurious facade of the upper crust. Now he concerns himself exclusively with the cut of his coat and the quality of his boots. And yet his protégé is so unblemished by cynicism that he inspires the first flare of genuine desire Julius has felt in years. He cannot protect Harry from the worst excesses of society. But together they can withstand the high price of passion.

Thoughts:

KJ Charles excels at writing m/m stories with plots that extend beyond her main characters’ arc, whether it’s magical malfeasance in her Charm of Magpies series or country house derring-do in Think of England, and A Fashionable Indulgence delivers. In fact, it does so almost too well.  I liked reading about Harry and Julius, but I know the names of the couples who are going to feature in the next two books of the series, and I found my attention diverted by the secondary characters in this one.  I think my fellow bus riders probably found it disconcerting to hear me mutter “I know who bruised him!” and “Thwarted love causes grumpiness; that’s why he’s acting so moralistic!” as we rode to work.  The upcoming books’ timelines overlap with A Fashionable Indulgence, so I had the feeling that if I just looked a little harder, I could follow the characters off the pages of this book and into theirs.

That said, A Fashionable Indulgence is great on its own.  Harry Vane is the son of two fierce radicals who believe fervently in the cause. Harry believes in the cause, sure, but he’d really rather not have to worry about arrest, flogging, gaol, or worse. Julius Norreys is the cool and unperturbable man set to transform Harry’s appearance and manners so that Harry won’t embarrass his newfound relations.

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Book Review: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook

 

Title: The Rook
Author: Daniel O’Malley
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Release Date: October 16, 2012

The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: A+

Blurb:

Myfanwy Thomas awakes in a London park surrounded by dead bodies. With her memory gone, her only hope of survival is to trust the instructions left in her pocket by her former self. She quickly learns that she is a Rook, a high-level operative in a secret agency that protects the world from supernatural threats. But there is a mole inside the organization and this person wants her dead.

As Myfanwy battles to save herself, she encounters a person with four bodies, a woman who can enter her dreams, children transformed into deadly fighters, and an unimaginably vast conspiracy. Suspenseful and hilarious, THE ROOK is an outrageously inventive debut for readers who like their espionage with a dollop of purple slime.

Thoughts:

For the past several years, I’ve volunteered as the crew chief for friends running the Leadville 100 trail race. The race is a 100 mile foot race starting in the highest incorporated town in the US at around 10,000 feet, and over the next 100 miles (again, of running!) participants go over the 12,600 Hope Pass peak, twice.  Runners rely on their support crews to pace them for the last 50 miles, and if you have a crew chief, she manages logistics of pacer arrival, timing, food and water at aid stations, and sometimes she yells at you to keep moving when you’d really rather just sit down and take a nap, thanks.  There’s a hard deadline of 30 hours to complete the race, and many of the participants who begin the race have to drop out partway through.

This has really nothing to do with Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook, except that through the stress of trying to figure out timing and needs for a sleep-deprived runner traipsing (or lumbering) through many miles of trails in the dark, I feel that I’ve got the tiniest inkling of what life is like for Myfawny Thomas, the amnesiac protagonist of O’Malley’s novel.  Myfawny, both in her current memory-free incarnation and as her previous self, is a splendid organizer, prepared for any eventuality.  Her former self (‘Thomas’) has left careful and thorough directions to help the new Myfawny (‘Myfawny’) sort out her life, supernatural job, and most importantly, which bastard betrayed her and tried to kill her.

While Thomas was fantastic at logistics, she was “damaged” in a way that Myfawny isn’t, and it’s fun and a bit sad to see the potential that Thomas, who we meet only in her letters, could have had.  I don’t want to give away too much of the convoluted plot, so here’s a list of some other thoughts:

  • When recommending to a friend, I described it as:  Part mystery, part sci-fi/fantasy. Long-ish, engrossing, and thoroughly weird.
  • I’ve read it twice and listened to it on audiobook three times. Each time I heard or read something new.
  • It totally passes the Bechdel test, from an early conversation Myfawny has with her secretary regarding her schedule (it involves bumping the Minister of Defense for a more important meeting) to the friendship that Myfawny forms with a member of her super-secret-supernatural group’s American counterpart.
  • Myfawny as a character is as capable as Thomas was, with a flair for brazen improvization. Also, she can do interesting and fairly disgusting things to anyone who gets in her way.
  • Super powers! Government administration! Covert corruption and betrayals! Belgian enemies who rudely offer no chocolate! At least one vampire with mysterious intentions and powers, who doesn’t have the strangest or most menacing powers!

The Rook can be difficult to describe without spoilers, which I don’t want to give. A great part of the joy of reading it comes from starting out as ignorant as the main character and slowly learning about the bizarre (and sometimes bizarrely mundane) world in which she inhabits. Go read it. Then wait with bated breath for the sequel, Stiletto, to come out in January 2016.