It’s 1917 and the world is at war. Elliot Stone isn’t a soldier and he had no intention of becoming one, but the government knows his secrets—all of them—and Elliot is blackmailed into joining the war. Elliot has magical abilities that can make people feel horror or euphoria and he is also a dreamwalker and wakes in other people’s dreams. Elliott’s biggest secret, though, is that he enjoys the company of men and, with no other choice, Elliott finds himself leaving for war.
Warren “Sully’ Sullivan has had a difficult childhood and now, as an adult, just gets by financially with a job as a private investigator. Sully is also an illusionist and an empath and when he too gets blackmailed, he is sent to training as a drafted soldier. The night before the men depart, they meet and have an intensely erotic encounter. With no choice, the men then leave each other for uncertain futures. But Sully and Elliot reconnect in training—well sort of, as Elliott is an officer and he and Sully cannot interact. But Elliott finds a way to see Sully as he awakens in Sully’s nightmares night after night as Sully sleeps, but only Elliott remembers the encounters.
As the war rages on, Elliott has a chance to add Sully to the team of magical elite soldiers he leads, giving Sully a much better chance at surviving the war. But there is different kind of warfare away from the front lines and neither man is safe from the risk of losing their hearts and possibly their lives.
This is a debut book from Vanora Lawless and it had a lot of interesting qualities with the addition of magic. The story centers around Elliott and Sully and their magical abilities and how their relationship changes during the war. Elliot has had an easier life with his family having some money, whereas Sully was orphaned and taking care of his young cousin. The men both recognize the magic in the other and that only adds to the fuel of their attraction.
There is not much world building here. It’s known that magical abilities exist and we have to take that for granted, and people find out about Elliott’s and Sully’s abilities, in a mysterious man in a dark coat kind of way, and we have to take that for granted as well. Those with magical abilities are at risk of be exploited, but how they play into larger society isn’t a focus. Elliott and Sully have two strikes against them as they possess magic and enjoy men, which makes them ripe for blackmail.
The story then stagnated for me once they got to war. The men can’t acknowledge that they know each other and the story turns to how their magic is used in battle and then to Elliott’s dreamwalking, but none of it went into enough depth for me. The magical abilities and the war became too basic for me and while the dreamwalking was what drew me to this book, that also wasn’t a compelling enough storyline.
The war still rages on and the men are left in what I saw as a happy for the moment. There are still a lot of battles to be won for these men, both personally and in the war, and although this is listed as book one of the series, I would have liked more direction on where their story was headed. This book had some interesting aspects, but I would have liked to see more depth in more places.