Tag: K.J. Charles

Review – A Queer Trade

Posted January 24, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Review – A Queer Trade

A Queer Trade

by KJ Charles

Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 53
Series: Rag & Bone #0.5
Rating: three-stars

Apprentice magician Crispin Tredarloe returns to London to find his master dead, and his papers sold. Papers with secrets that could spell death. Crispin needs to get them back before anyone finds out what he's been doing, or what his magic can do.

Crispin tracks his quarry down to waste paper dealer Ned Hall. He needs help, and Ned can’t resist Crispin’s pleading—and appealing—looks. But can the waste-man and the magician prevent a disaster and save Crispin’s skin?

A Queer Trade is a fun introduction to two characters who star in one of the few KJ Charles books I’ve yet to read, Rag & Bone. It gives a bit of context to how they met and what they’re like, which feels like a solid way to start off if you’re interested in reading Rag & Bone. It doesn’t give a lot of detail about the judiciary who operate throughout the Charm of Magpies world, so it doesn’t stand on its own very well without having read those, I’d say.

The romance is cute and hopeful, without going too far — it’s not straight to love, but straight to solid attraction, and a connection formed through weird, alarming circumstances that the two of them managed to figure out together.

It’s a quick read; I’m not in a huge hurry to read Rag & Bone, but I’m more tempted to pick it up now than I was before: I love the original trilogy in this world, but I’m not a huge fan of Jackdaw.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen

Posted July 9, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by KJ CharlesThe Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen, KJ Charles

I’m pretty much committed to reading whatever KJ Charles writes, and she can pretty much always (with one notable exception) win me over. (The exception is Jackdaw. I wonder if that’ll change when I reread it, but I really didn’t love where the relationship started there, and especially not the tricky middle.) So I started this expecting a good time, and wasn’t too surprised to get it, because it’s KJ Charles.

Admittedly, for a bit I wasn’t sure because Gareth was being a bit of a dick — though as ever with KJ Charles’ characters, you can also see why and where it came from (even if you think it’s a bit overblown; human emotions do that). I wasn’t sure how the two of them were going to figure things out, and honestly the first bit was more fraught than I was looking for in a weird mood.

Still, I gave it time, and quickly found myself sucked in. Gareth has his insecurities, but he also has the strength of them: he knows why he’s insecure, and he doesn’t want to see anyone else feel the same way. Joss has a lot of responsibility and steps up to it with ease, and it’s a delight to see him also learn to share his burdens and to take a little for himself. There are some delightful side characters, too (and some vivid, well-drawn but less delightful ones as well).

The mystery is equal billing with the romance — I didn’t find anything too surprising in how it worked out, but I enjoyed the ride.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – A Thief in the Night

Posted April 23, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of A Thief in the Night by KJ CharlesA Thief in the Night, KJ Charles

I always enjoy KJ Charles’ less murdery books, and this novella’s a nice one. There’s not much of a supporting cast, just Miles and Toby, getting to know each other, getting past their hangups, and figuring out how to take a chance on each other. Toby’s a sweetie, and Miles is… somewhat incidentally grumpy — which is to say, not permanently grumpy by constitution, but in a terrible position and not sure how on earth to turn things around.

As always, I love Charles’ careful attention to issues of consent. It really doesn’t take much to show characters being aware of it and ensuring it, and it makes the situations so much more satisfying. You don’t end up thinking “ugh, but X was relying on Y for food to eat, so of course he couldn’t really say no” — because the characters realise that and work with it (or don’t, and later have to work with it, perhaps). It’s not some unspoken, unexamined grossness.

As a result, it’s easy to just enjoy Toby and Miles and how they find happiness together. I really liked Toby, and I really felt for the panic-stricken moments near the end… but of course, Miles comes to the rescue (I won’t spoil you as to how).

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Subtle Blood

Posted May 21, 2022 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Subtle Blood by K.J. CharlesSubtle Blood, K.J. Charles

Subtle Blood brings an end to the adventures of Will Darling and Kim Secretan — at least for the reader, though it’s fairly clear they’re going to go off and get into trouble together again, as soon as possible. It beautifully resolves much of their issues with Zodiac, and features Kim being much more open, less willing to lie (at least to Will), and totally committed to the future he’s realised he can have. It’s adorable and satisfying, as adorable as anything can be when it involves this pair.

It was pretty much everything I wanted from the finale of this series, and everything I wanted for these characters. What more can I say?

Don’t forget to read the coda free on Charles’ website — particularly if you know who Daniel da Silva is. (If you don’t, hie thee to a purveyor of books and grab Think of England first.)

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Sugared Game

Posted May 8, 2022 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Sugared Game by K.J. CharlesThe Sugared Game, K.J. Charles

The problem I have with Will and Kim is that I want to scream at them to communicate properly, but the fact that they have difficulty with that is relevant to the plot, and thus you can’t be too mad at them because it totally makes sense… but also, stop hurting each other for stupid reasons (mostly looking at you, Kim) and figure yourselves out.

It seems like the end of this book puts them in a place where that’s somewhat more possible, which I’m glad about — and the ride to get there is one hell of a thing. I can’t talk about it too much: just as Kim can’t tell Will much at all without revealing way too much, I think to say too much here would spoil the plot a little.

The climax of the book is pretty hair-raising and dramatic (in a way that works perfectly). It leaves me wondering where they’ll go next… and eager to find out. I wonder what fresh complications they’ll manage to throw in each others’ way, how they’ll cope with Zodiac now, and whether Phoebe and Maisie will be part of it (and what part they’ll play, exactly).

I didn’t spot the cameo until I saw a review mentioning it, which just proves it’s been too long since I read some of Charles’ books. Clearly I’ll have to fix that with some rereading.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Slippery Creatures

Posted October 7, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Slippery Creatures by K.J. CharlesSlippery Creatures, K.J. Charles

One of my least favourite things in any story is when the plot is driven by miscommunication/lack of communication… but though this is true of Slippery Creatures, I can’t ding the story for it. The lack of communication is built into the characters, and how they react to it is totally consistent, and makes sense with who they are. It would be more frustrating if they weren’t bouncing off each other, because it wouldn’t ring true. Kim is messed up, and Will is horribly stubborn, and the story would be far too easy without them.

I do enjoy their relationship, and their characters, even though Kim unquestionably brings it all on himself and puts Will in terrible danger by misreading him and his motivations, and then not being straightforward with him. But I really enjoy Phoebe and Maisie, and I’d love to know more about them — they both play small but emotionally significant parts in the plot, and I love them.

The end of the book is very much not a happy ending: Slippery Creatures is the start of something, not the end. For that reason, it’s a little rough to say how much I’m going to enjoy this series as a whole — but I suspect it will be a lot.

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted August 18, 2021 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

What, me, doing my weekly update in a timely fashion?! Surely you jest.

Cover of The Jasmine Throne by Tasha SuriWhat are you currently reading?

Just two books! I know, it’s a shock — I didn’t intentionally cut down, really, I was just feeling pretty stressed and it happened by itself. So I’m halfway through Tasha Suri’s The Jasmine Throne, for a book club read. It’s a bit chunky-looking on the shelf, but I’ve been speeding through it when I sit myself down and focus.

I’m also now rereading The Fellowship of the Ring. I had a bit of an urge to read it, and I decided to just go with it — whims are good!

Cover of The Bone Wars by Erin EvanWhat have you recently finished reading?

The Hobbit, which is for me always the right place to start a Tolkien reread. It’s as cosy as ever (despite going some very un-cosy places), and I still love the narrative voice.

Before that, I DNF’ed The Bone Wars (Erin S. Evan) too soon to even review it (which I normally would) for being a bit too young-feeling and infodumpy.

Cover of Slippery Creatures by K.J. CharlesWhat will you be reading next?

That’s a bit of a mystery, as usual, but maybe not quite so much as usual. I’m really really hoping to get started on Scoff: a History of Food and Class in Britain by Pen Vogler, from my non-fiction pile, and Slippery Creatures by K.J. Charles from the fiction pile. However, I also want to reread the fourth Kate Daniels book soon, and the next Whyborne and Griffin book, and I’ve so far had 10 new books for my birthday, and(!) I want to work on reading more of the ARCs I’ve neglected.

So, um, probably still plenty of mystery.

Okay, now it’s your turn. What’re you reading?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted July 21, 2021 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

It’s Wednesday again already! How does that keep happening? And do I make the same joke too often? It’s too warm to think of a new one.

Cover of Black Water Sister by Zen ChoWhat are you currently reading?

A couple of things at once, as usual! I’m most of the way through Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, which is more autobiographical than I had been led to expect, and which just doesn’t quite work for me in its outlook. I’m also still working on Behave, by Robert Sapolsky; he seems to be taking an awful long time to say nothing new.

In fiction news, I finally started Zen Cho’s Black Water Sister, which I’m enjoying but not getting super into — partly because I haven’t had much brain for reading with how warm it is.

Cover of The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia PostrelWhat have you recently finished reading?

Virginia Postrel’s The Fabric of Civilization, which I enjoyed quite a lot. I think I’d have got more out of it if I had a visual imagination, though: when she described how to weave, for instance, it just meant nothing to me.

What will you be reading next?

Don’t know! I really need to get to Slippery Creatures (K.J. Charles), but who knows?

Alright, your turn!

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Review – The Gentle Art of Fortune-Hunting

Posted July 21, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Gentle Art of Fortune-Hunting by KJ CharlesThe Gentle Art of Fortune-Hunting, K.J. Charles

Yaaaay, a stand-alone Regency romance with attempted cunning scams, falling in love with the wrong people, and improbably yanking at the tangle and sorting it all out at the end. It’s funny, the communication between the characters is as sexy as I ever find anything (ace, remember), and it’s good for the happy wriggle and toe-curls of “yaaay, a proper romance-novel happy ending”. And of course, it’s K.J. Charles, so you count on the fact that the sex advances character and plot, consent is properly obtained, and she knows the contract with the reader when it comes to happy ends.

I don’t understand how allegedly intelligent people don’t figure Robin out waaaay sooner than they do, given the abundant clues, but I do love the slow reveal of Robin’s past and motives, and the way the plot builds up toward the pairing.

And the funniness. And the heart.

Band Sinister is still my favourite, but this one is definitely on my ‘reread when things are shit’ list, too.

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted July 15, 2021 by Nicky in General / 2 Comments

Real quick, this week:

Cover of The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia PostrelWhat are you currently reading?

A few books at once, as usual! But I’m in a hurry, so I’ll stick to saying that I’ve just started The Fabric of Civilization, by Virginia Postrel, and I’m finding it fascinating. The first chapters go into specific elements of fabric (thread, dye, etc) describing their origins and development.

I’ve also started a reread of The Paradise War, by Stephen Lawhead. It seems almost impossible that the suck fairy hasn’t visited this book I loved as a teen, but it was so formative to my tastes that I’m giving it another go.

What have you recently finished reading?

The last thing I finished was Magic Strikes, which was a reread, and remains a heck of a lot of fun. I overestimated how much the arena scenes featured in the book, though!

What will you be reading next?

Should be Black Water Sister, by Zen Cho, since it’s coming up as a book club read. But, as always, I can’t promise I won’t be tempted by shinies, especially with my wife currently reading K.J. Charles’ Will Darling books, which I have not yet started…

So… what are you reading?

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