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Spectred Isle by KJ Charles

Title: Spectred Isle (Green Men #1)

Author: KJ Charles

Publisher: Self-published

Lenght:  271 pages

Genre: Romance, Historical, Paranormal

Score: ★★★★★

 

“I suppose you know you’re beautiful,” Randolph said, very softly.

The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal is one of my favorite books. It’s a perfect mix of romance, interesting plot, and heartbreaking ending. It is amazing partly thanks to the unique narration and the melancholic atmosphere. When I found out KJ Charles is planning sequels set in the same universe, I was both delighted and worried. How do you follow up to that kind of book, that kind of ending, without cheapening it? You write Spectred Isle, as it turns out. As I mentioned, I had very high expectations for this book, and yet, it sailed right above them.

Walking in the steps of its predecessor, Spectred Isle has magnificent atmosphere. Set in 1925 during the Roaring Twenties, London is a mix of desperately hopeful people looking forward to a better future (and the irony of that is not lost on the reader), while mourning an entire lost generation and all their potential. Our heroes have seen the horrors of the War firsthand and will fight tooth and nail to prevent something so horrible from happening second time (again, the irony is lost on nobody). All the characters have been chewed up by the war in all kinds of horrible ways, and yet, they aren’t giving up. They are amazing.

Saul took his face in both hands, one still a touch slippery with grease, and kissed him. It wasn’t the hungry need of before, but a careful, serious kiss, deep and open, and Randolph leaned into it, taking what he was given with a deep, nameless relief.

Saul Lazenby, an archeologist disgraced in the war, finds himself in the employ of the highly eccentric Major Peabody, who seems keen on uncovering an arcane conspiracy behind London. When his previously nonsensical ideas start turning up results, Saul is rightfully disturbed. When those directions make him constantly run into the mysterious Randolph Glyde, Saul isn’t sure what is going on anymore.

Randolph Glyde, the last of the ancient arcanist family, is the current leader of the Green Men, arcane defenders, a role he’s woefully unprepared for. His entire family perished in the war, taking their secrets with them and Randolph is left juggling several roles not his, only because there is nobody else to take them. He and his group must ward off the power-hungry government and figure out who is trying to take advantage of the weakened veil between worlds to summon ancient evils. So, when he keeps running into Saul Lazenby in all the wrong places, he starts to suspect there may be more players on the board. When Saul is plunged into the arcane world, Randolph sees him for his true worth and the two team up to figure out what is going on around them, all while falling deeply in love.

Saul took his face in both hands, one still a touch slippery with grease, and kissed him. It wasn’t the hungry need of before, but a careful, serious kiss, deep and open, and Randolph leaned into it, taking what he was given with a deep, nameless relief.

Randolph and Saul’s relationship is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read about. Based on mutual respect, it’s kind and soft, with a hint of desperation two somewhat broken people might feel when they find a kindred soul. They understand each other, what they went through in their lives and the scars they carry, but that only makes the other more beautiful in their eyes. They are so, so careful with each other’s hearts and bit by bit, they help each other to lessen the pain. The see the other as they really are, and are unable to believe they could be allowed the joy of being together.

Saul is an amazing character. He has been through a lot, and while accepting his guilt, he won’t let it overpower him. He has a hard time trusting others and looks at the world around him with slight impatience for nonsense, but he’s undeniably kind and soft around the edges. Randolph is scathingly sarcastic and dominant, but his demeanor hides deep hurts. He is almost painfully honest, but that only makes his kindness more real. When he stands up for Saul, we believe him.

The supporting characters are amazing as well. The mystery surrounding Hugh Barnaby and Max Isaacs kept me guessing and when I finally found out the truth, I screamed in excitement. Sam Caldwell absolutely stole the book. As the only remaining link between The Secret Casebook and Green Men, I was excited to see him all grown up while anxious over his family’s fate in the original book. Sam in Spectred Isle is a wonderful supportive sweetheart, bringing righteous fury to anyone who deserves it. There was a perfect amount of throwbacks to his parents’ life and I cried my eyes out whenever the Casebook itself was mentioned; it touches upon the erasure of queer lives from their own narrative and how important it is to not forget our own history.

Spectred Isle made me cry repeatedly. It is my favorite of KJ Charles’ books (and as someone who sold their soul to A Seditious Affair, I do not say that lightly), thanks to the incredible atmosphere, often creepy plot, beautiful romance with wonderful characters. The plot itself made me excited for more and I honestly can’t wait to see what happens next in the series.

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