Zayne Mayer has a new job in a new city, all because a long lost uncle died and left he and his sister a marvelous brownstone in Cleveland. He’d been told to expect a house with some wear and tear. He hadn’t been told to expect the flaming hot, red-headed, green eyed housekeeper who cooked him breakfast complete with homemade bread, freshly baked. Zane’s sister — who foretells both disaster and a crossroads for him with her tarot cards — tells him he should let Kit know it’s time for him to find a new job and a new place to live, but somehow Zane can’t quite bring himself to agree with her.
Kit was their uncle’s live-in caretaker during his declining years when he was struggling with dementia. It seems callous to just ask him to leave, especially with how well he cooks, and how handsome he looks. Not that Zane was looking, of course! But there’s a shadow in Kit’s eyes and he avoids certain topics. He’s also charmingly inept when it comes to anything more complicated than the stove. Like the vacuum cleaner, the computer, or anything electrical. Besides, there’s a handsome man at work who offered to take Zane out for drinks. Even if he did spend much of that time thinking about Kit…
Kit’s secrets, though, keep him from truly opening up to Zane. You see, Kit isn’t quite human. In fact, he’s only half human and that’s the least of the secrets he’s keeping. He’s the guardian of the Gate, a portal between the mortal and spirit worlds hidden in the basement, and Zane is the man destined to bond with Kit and become his Keeper, the focus and source of strength and magic that allows Kit to perform his tasks.
Kit knows Zane dreams of traveling the world, something that would be impossible for a Keeper. He would never be able to leave the Gate for more than a day before falling ill and dying. He won’t subject Zane to that fate, trapping him like a bird in a cage. Even if it means Kit and the Gate are destined to fade.
Zane is a cheerful, pleasant, and a nice guy who wants to travel the world. He loves his sister, and likes his job, Kit’s cooking, and Kit himself. Beyond that, there’s not much depth to him, which almost works as he spends much of the book as the reader’s eyes and ears. But it means Zane’s relationship with Kit becomes candy sweet without a distinctive flavor. Fortunately for Zane, and the book, Kit has quite a bit of character on his own.
Kit is half human and half kitsune — hence the name. His father doesn’t care for him and abandoned him once Kit’s human mother died, and seems to have spent much of his time tearing down any self esteem Kit might have had. This self doubt and insecurity has crippled Kit’s powers. Other spirits and lesser demons comment that Kit is impressively powerful, or would be if he ever found a Keeper who could match him.
As a Guardian, Kit has spent much of his 200 plus years taking care of the Guardians of his gate. He is, or has been, their servant, their butler, their caretaker, but never a friend or a partner. When Zane wants to help with the dishes or the housework, Kit is flustered and confused, which only gets worse for him when Zane wants to be friends. It’s not something Kit’s ever had to deal with before, and change isn’t easy for someone so steeped in a predestined role. Adding on to that, his last Keeper, Zane’s uncle, was suffering from dementia. Kit had to devote every part of every day to caring for someone who could no longer take care of themselves or even think for themselves. For years until his death. That was followed by five more years of being alone with the gate with no Keeper to help him or justify his existence. It’s given Kit an odd perspective and quite a few hangups, and when Zane arrives Kit only wants to go back to the way things ought to be.
Kit is meant to take care of Zane, who shouldn’t have to lift a finger or suffer or even, frankly, have an opinion. But when he learns that Zane yearns to travel, has spent his whole life wanting to travel, Kit has a bit of a mental hiccup. Rather than talk to Zane, he does as he’s always done. He takes care of the situation for Zane, making a decision he knows is best for both of them. Kit doesn’t want Zane, who he’s growing fond of, to have to make a choice, because Zane isn’t meant to make a choice, to do the work, to take the burden. Kit is. It’s a martyr complex that’s been long in the building as Keeper after Keeper — and even his own father — have seen him as a thing rather than a person. Have seen him as something lesser rather than something equal. Even when it comes time to bond together — a mystical union that unites them as Keeper and Guardian — Kit thinks it shouldn’t happen because he thinks Zane shouldn’t want it. It’s not up to Zane, in Kit’s mind, to have the right to sacrifice his freedom for Kit. But it’s Kit’s right to sacrifice his life for Zane. He wants to protect Zane as he’s always protected the Keepers.
But what Zane wants isn’t a master and servant relationship. He wants Zane as a boyfriend, as a partner, as someone who will cook dinners while Zane deals with anything electrical. He wants someone who will sit at the same table and eat with him, who will laugh with him and love him. It’s a relationship that will take work, and with this being book one of a series, I am quite hopeful we’ll see some of that work in future stories — the good parts and the frustrating ones, especially since Kit has trouble talking things out or trusting other people.
This is a charming and cute little story with some interesting world building and a candy sweet happily ever after. If you need a palate cleanser after some dark, grim, and angst filled stories, this one might work for you. It did for me.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.