So many books! I’ve had a brilliant month picking up several terrific titles at the Meet in Bristol and getting a mountain of recommendations to add to my TBR pile. It occurs to me that one recommendation a week isn’t really enough! This week I’ve been bingeing on historicals – my favourite – but I’ve read some excellent Sci Fi as well.
Sometimes I pick up a book with no particular expectations and am surprised and delighted by what I read. Sometimes the title is much anticipated from an auto-buy author who has set a very high bar and the delight, while anticipated, is just as great. My recommendation today is one of the latter – Think of England by K J Charles.
KJ is best known for her Magpie Lord books, set in a Victorian England where magic is a tried and tested solution to many problems. Think of England also has a Victorian setting only this one is skirting the edges of that much beloved country inhabited by the larger-than-life heroes of Rider Haggard, John Buchan etc, where heroes have exceedingly stiff upper lips, never undo their collars even in the hottest weather and feel that just because a chap enjoys the company of chaps, other chaps shouldn’t be too quick to read anything into it.
That description fits Archie Curtis, nephew of the great explorer Sir Henry Curtis, damaged and grieving after an ‘accident’ that maimed him and killed his men and his – well not lover because Archie isn’t like that – but Archie has heard that the accident may not have been an accident at all and is investigating in an endearingly inept and gentlemanly fashion. The moral knots into which Archie ties himself are one of the joys of the book. As a complete contrast to our clean-cut hero is Daniel Da Silva, who speaks like a gentleman but is plainly not from the top drawer, dresses in a very bohemian fashion and is the epitomy of one of my favourite words “louche”. Yes, Daniel bothers Archie from the moment he first sees him and he should because Daniel embraces all the things Archie tries to ignore in himself and flaunts them, as his green carnation demonstrates. Instead of being a rock solid rather unimaginative military man he is a poet and not a poet who writes proper verses either. His work has meanings that are just out of Archie’s grasp, but Archie assumes that they refer to something disturbing and ‘not quite the thing’.
Of all people to be essential to the success of Archie’s mission, Daniel is the least likely, but how these two negotiate their way to being antagonistic partners, then lovers is another joy of the books. Together they face the appalling prejudices of the time, depicted with excruciating and necessary accuracy, social ruin, and both physical and psychological danger. The villains are plausible and loathsome, help arrives from unexpected sources, period appropriate solutions are found to age old problems.
I’m not going to say any more about it other that I LOVED it and am so glad that KJ is already writing book 2. To save you the bother of Googling, you can buy it here.