Allie Therin


Magic in Manhattan: Spellbound (2019), Starcrossed (2020), Wonderstruck (2021)

Magic in Manhattan

Spellbound (2019)

SpellboundSet in New York in 1924.

Rory Brodigan works for a woman he calls his aunt, helping assess the authenticity of antiques. But there is no science–only magic–behind his abilities.

Arthur Kenzie needs someone who can read the history of objects, and he thinks Mrs Brodigan is the woman who can help him. She he brings her a test–to find out if she’s what he hopes–because he and his friends need someone who can read the history of objects to help them in dealing with unsavory characters.

There is a LOT to like here. Arthur is a veteran of The Great War, and despite coming from wealth and privilege, defends his friends and family with everything.

“Quality gin doesn’t run itself from Toronto.”

Arthur scoffed. “Fifth Avenue deserves rotgut. Half those arseholes call for segregation during the day then have the nerve to slither into Harlem for culture at night. Be nice to bounce those hypocrites straight out of your speakeasy and onto the street.”

“Except they’d return with the police,” she pointed out, “because we’re in America, where the law lets your people street my people, never the other way around.”

This story is set in a very interesting time period–the roaring twenties, that era between the horrors of The Great War and the Great Depression.

“You wound me,” said Arthur, as a waiter approached. “I am the very model of a law-abiding citizen.”

The waiter set the drink down with a flourish. “Your gin rickey, sir.”

The sisters exchanged smirks.

“Oh, shut up,” said Arthur. “Half this country’s laws are travesties and Prohibition’s not even the worst.

There were some weak parts here–the language was off. But that might be particularly obvious to me because I’ve been reading Agatha Christie, and the language just felt a little off and a little to modern (especially for a character who spent a great deal of time in Europe). But I like the historical parts. Not just the prohibition, but the fact that racism was against not just Blacks, but also Italians and other immigrants.

And it’s nice to have good people–a good antidote to the current world.

“Some people see suffering that isn’t their own and still try to help, for no other reason than it’s the right thing to do.”

Another thing I thought interesting was the description not just of Rory’s powers, but his reactions to them. I can see how it would be easy to completely lose oneself in the history of an object.

As a bonus, all the boinking was fade to black!

Twas good! I liked it! I’ve got the next lined up to read!

Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 8/10

Starcrossed (2020)

StarcrossedSet in New York in 1925.

This is set immediately after the events of the first book. Rory and Arthur are in Hyde Park where Rory is helping to authenticate some of Arthur’s brother’s supposedly antique compasses, and Arthur is visiting his family.

“Speaking of children,” Arthur said dryly. “Yours are as well-mannered as ever.”

Harry only smiled, unperturbed. “I moved to the country so they could run free as wild horses.” Mrs. Brodigan put a hand over her heart, looked thoroughly charmed.

“How lovely.”

“Lovely rubbish,” said Arthur. “Don’t listen to a word. He’s a soft touch, yes, but he also has more children than limbs. This is the cowardly surrender of a zookeeper overrun by the monkeys.”

I really like Arthur.

(F)inishing school in London just makes you interesting.”

Arthur sighed into his drink. “I want to be the boring one. If I’m the most interesting person in the conversation, then I’ve chosen the wrong company.”

In this story, Rory is trying to deal with his connection to a relic, and a new relic appears, and amidst all that Rory and Arthur are trying to work out their relationship.

It’s particularly interesting, that is issue of class is almost as much of a hurdle as the issue of sexuality. Arthur was in the war and has friends from the “lower classes” because of that, but there is no real sense of equality yet, where rumors wouldn’t start if Arthur spent too much time in Rory’s company. As Lord Fine points out–no one would think much of two confirmed wealthy bachelors traveling and spending time together, but everyone would notice and comment about Arthur spending so much time with Rory.

And I remain delighted that the boinking is fade-to-black.

It’s another good story, and I can’t wait for the third book.

Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 8/10

Wonderstruck (2021)

WonderstruckSet in New York and other locales in 1925

Arthur and Rory are searching for a way to destroy the magical artifact that could be used to enslave non-magical minds, not just because it is evil, but because an evil man is searching to control it himself. But although Arthur has no magic himself, Rory is the one in danger, as that same man wants Rory’s powers for himself.

Both Arthur and Rory still have issues with trust, although for different reasons.

Arthur’s hands were very tight around the steering wheel as he drove them farther north. “But you still have a maintenance key to my flat.”

“Well, yeah. I’d never lose that.” Rory heard Arthur take another breath through his nose. “So where are we going?”

“Harlem,” said Arthur, eyes fixed forward, his expression now shuttered in a way that made Rory feel like somehow he’d hurt Arthur deeply.

Most of the issue between Arthur and Rory is that they come from different worlds: Arthur comes from a wealthy family and has been given every advantage. Rory is the bastard child of an Italian immigrant who was put in an institution as a teenager and almost lobotomized because of his magical gifts.

Another problem is that Arthur is used to having things his way, and don’t initially realize the kind of power that gives him over Rory.

It’s not all dark, however.

“Do you know how to play?” When Rory shook his head, Lord Fine said, “Then I’ll show you.” He leaned forward. “With the caveat that it is impossible to teach anyone to play billiards without getting rather handsy.”

“Oh, you don’t gotta worry about that,” Rory said. “Ace reminded me today that he doesn’t ever get jealous.”

Arthur opened his mouth, then closed it.

It was a fun story and I enjoyed it, although the modern language did get to be occasionally.

Publisher : Carina Press
Rating: 8/10