A guest review by John
Summary Review: Can the lower class magician woo the heart of the upper class man?
Is it real, or just smoke and mirrors?
As a member of the British gentry, Marcus Fleetwood-Smythe’s life is an endless round of responsibility and duty. Charged with finding a magician for his sister’s upcoming wedding, he ventures out into the pouring rain and finds Teague, whose free spirit calls to Marcus. And makes him hunger for anything and everything his position won’t allow him to have.
Teague’s stock in trade are his wandering feet and the rather odd lineage that takes the wonders he performs on stage beyond the ordinary. But there’s nothing more magical than the sparks that fly between him and Marcus. Except the duty-bound Marcus fears letting go of a life that’s smothering him almost as much as he fears discovery.
Desire fans the flames until it flares into forbidden passion, leaving Marcus poised on the precipice of the most frightening choice of his life. Risk everything for the man who holds his heart…or watch his one chance at forever vanish in a puff of smoke.
In the beginning of this story, Marcus is slogging through rainy London in search of his soon to be brother-in-law. His sister Eloise has sent him on this errand to a shop named The Brass Box. Supposedly Charles is gambling his life away in a seedy part of town near the docks. As Marcus steps around puddles and tries to avoid becoming completely drenched, he bumps into a most interesting man. Teague grabs hold of Marcus to save him from the splash of a passing wagon. Both men are intrigued by the other and then Teague offers to escort Marcus to The Brass Box. It seems that Teague is the owner. Marcus thinks himself lucky to be led so easily to his destination. Downstairs inside the shop are the gaming tables, but Charles is nowhere to be found. Not finding his sister’s fiance´, Marcus returns home.
It turns out that Marcus got the wrong instructions from his sister. He wasn’t in search of Charles, he was sent to hire a magician for the wedding announcement party. And this magician is named Teague Byrne. In their brief encounter, both men are attracted to the
other. But each recognizes the difficulty of a homosexual relationship in 19th century England and the disparity of their class. Teague is in the laborer class, Marcus is in the upper class. But the attraction is too fierce to ignore.
Teague is a wanderer, foot-loose and fancy free. Marcus is bound to managing his family’s estate, kowtowing to his domineering mother, and trying to keep the rumors about his sexual proclivities to a minimum. When Teague offers to take Marcus with him, when he eventually leaves to resume his wandering, Marcus can’t imagine leaving his family or losing Teague.
This is a nice story. The characters are well developed and have a real feel to them. Even Marcus’ sister and mother, who are very minor players, are well drawn. I like the interaction between the two men. They are both confident in their lives, but each has hidden misgivings. Teague might be a laborer, and of Irish descent, which are both regarded with disdain by the uppercrust of society, but his abilities as a magician seem to be in high demand. And he’s good. He has a magnetism to his personality that helps his magic show and keeps Marcus in his bed. And then there is Marcus who is successful at his management of the family’s business interests, but has no interest in women. However, Society has its demands and expectations. At one point in the story, Marcus and Teague are in the garden outside the house after Teague’s magic show, and they eavesdrop on a conversation. The speakers are discussing rumors about Marcus ……. he’s not married yet, what’s wrong with him, is he one of those?……. Marcus knows the speakers and both are rumored to be involved in the same sort of sexual activities that they are condemning him for, but they are excused by Society because they are married.
These tensions are realistically portrayed – high society’s expectations, Marcus’s mother’s, his business, and then his love for Teague. And a little matter of an unanswered question Marcus poses to Teague about his magic. It makes this story a good read. It is historical, placed in history sometime soon after the building of Big Ben, 1859.
A couple of little niggles kept this from being rated higher, but I liked it and I’m recommending it.