Life has not been easy for Fenn Todd and he is weary and just barely scraping by. When he is tricked into accepting a sackcloth horse as payment for some work, rather than a real one, it feels like the last straw in his humiliation and loss. But rather than be the cause of his defeat, the “horse” ends up leading Fenn into an unexpected world of magic. Fenn finds himself transported to the tower home of the country’s most famous wizard, court sorcerer Morgrim.
Fenn has heard stories of Morgrim’s power and dark temperament, but in reality, the man is nothing like Fenn expects. Rather than look down upon Fenn for his poor dress and lack of money and status, Morgrim treats Fenn as a guest in his home. He welcomes Fenn and proves to be a charming companion. Fenn can’t help but be drawn to Morgrim, and he is fairly sure the man returns his attraction, but he also is sure that there is no way a common man like him can ever be right for someone as powerful as Morgrim.
As Fenn spends more time with Morgrim, the men act on their desire and Fenn begins to imagine there is a chance for a future with Morgrim. But there is much more going on than Fenn was led to believe. There is unexpected danger, deep secrets, and lies that threaten everything the men are building. As Fenn learns the truth, he needs to decide if he is ready to take a chance on Morgrim and the love they have found together.
I totally fell for Lee Welch’s Salt Magic, Skin Magic, so I was excited to see the author had another book release. This one has more of a fantasy vibe than historical/paranormal, but it has a lot of the same heart, which really comes through in the characters and the relationship. At first glance, Morgrim and Fenn are such different men. Fenn has had a rough life. He works hard, but it seems at every turn, just as he is finding his place, he faces an uphill battle. He has spent the last many years wandering the country, scrounging for work, and barely getting by. Morgrim is famous, the incredible sorcerer who can do anything. He has power and influence and seems to have everything he could want in life. But much about Morgrim’s life is not what it seems for many reasons (some of which are spoilers that I won’t reveal). He came into his magic young and was thrust into a world and a position of power he wasn’t ready for. Yet, Morgrim is bound by duty, and he is grimly prepared to sacrifice whatever he must for his job and his country. He has to be strong all the time, or to at least appear strong, lest he put the country in a position of vulnerability. So I love how the story explores the relationship between these men, showing the way they come to love and understand one another, and the way they are able to help take each other’s burdens. Fenn finds a home, a place where he can belong, where he can be useful and settled and feel strong. And Morgrim gets to let down some of his burdens, at least behind closed doors with Fenn, and let someone take care of him for a while. We get some light BDSM notes here as there is a bit of a dominance kink to their sexual dynamic, but it is fairly low key. But I like how it shows Morgrim’s desire to just let go and Fenn’s ability to care for him. These men have some issues, and Morgrim withholds more than I felt good about, but they work through it and things come together well in the end. I found their relationship sweet and sexy with a lot of warmth, particularly at the end.
The world building here is interesting, but not as well developed as I needed. We just don’t get much information to really develop the larger part of the story. There is a lot of political intrigue, but I don’t feel like we get enough explained, at least early on, to understand the issues and the threats. The magical world also doesn’t feel fully developed. We know there is magic, and that the number of practioners is dwindling. I never really felt like I understood how Fenn’s magic worked and Morgrim’s is only given a fairly bare bones explanation. But beyond the two men, things felt even less clear. We hear about crystals, which seem to have magic (or be imbued with magic?) and provide power for carriages and lanterns. And that this was a different type of magic than Morgrim uses. But again, so little is explained. I have so many questions that never get answered about the types of magic, who can wield it, how it works, etc. I just don’t feel like the magical world is explained or developed enough to support the story and we just get some bare outlines here.
The book also took a while to get started for me. There seems to be so much lead up before we get to the point where I really understood what the larger plot was beyond the relationship itself. There is a point that comes more than halfway through where suddenly things all open up and I understood the issues and the storyline, but it took a while to get there. Fortunately, I found the book picked up in the second half and I really enjoyed how it all came together. And as I said, I really enjoyed Fenn and Morgrim together and found them to have a great dynamic that I enjoyed seeing explored.