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Lie back and think of England…
England, 1904. Two years ago, Captain Archie Curtis lost his friends, fingers, and future to a terrible military accident. Alone, purposeless and angry, Curtis is determined to discover if he and his comrades were the victims of fate, or of sabotage.
Curtis’s search takes him to an isolated, ultra-modern country house, where he meets and instantly clashes with fellow guest Daniel da Silva. Effete, decadent, foreign, and all-too-obviously queer, the sophisticated poet is everything the straightforward British officer fears and distrusts.
As events unfold, Curtis realizes that Daniel has his own secret intentions. And there’s something else they share—a mounting sexual tension that leaves Curtis reeling.
As the house party’s elegant facade cracks to reveal treachery, blackmail and murder, Curtis finds himself needing clever, dark-eyed Daniel as he has never needed a man before…
Note to self: do not doubt KJ Charles.
I love KJ Charles’ books. Her Charm of the Magpie series, the Simon Feximal shorts, and even Non-Stop till Tokyo…all rocked my world. But, I was interested in and ready for what I thought would be a character-driven, slow-paced, VERY British, gentle story. And this is how I started Think of England.
As I delved in, I wasn’t immediately feeling the love. It was ok, I guess. But I was noticing things that were niggling on my brain.
The characters: I wasn’t sure if I was meant to like them or not. Maybe as a lazy reader, I’m relying on the author to TELL me “LIKE THIS GUY” and “YOU HAVE TO HATE THIS GUY”. But I was conflicted about how I felt about the person who was supposed to be “THE HERO” and the person who was meant to be “THE LOVE INTEREST”. To be truthful, I didn’t find either that heroic or that lovable. So now what?
A mystery of sorts begins to introduce itself throughout the book. Questions about war and politics, men of power caught and evidenced in sordid acts, whodunnits as well as the guessing game of who’s good and who’s bad. I wanted to be drawn in by this story line. I wanted it to scream in my face, “Isn’t this SO COOL and scary and interesting?” But in fact, there were lots of people, lots of details, lots of possibilities, and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was supposed to be figuring out. So now what?
And then there’s this gay-for-you element that I was not convinced about. Namely because Curtis, wounded war hero, Oxford man, man of society and stature seemed to disdain de Silva, flamboyant, Jewish, lower-class artist. He didn’t seem to find him attractive or interesting. Until a magical blowjob saved the day and opened his eyes to his feelings. I wasn’t buying it. So now what?
So NOW…here’s where the brilliance of KJ Charles comes in.
The author rubs her hands together and lets out a maniacal laugh. And the plan begins to unfold brilliantly. She one by one, in the most subtle of ways, begins dealing with all those things I thought were bugging me.
You see, the hero & the love interest? Not so obvious which is which. And you begin to not only like them both, but you all the sudden find understanding and having compassion and devotion towards each. And you are unapologetic for loving them individually and loving them together. Curtis and de Silva become Archie and Daniel…and they’re wonderful. How did that happen?
The mystery plot? It gets deep and it gets dangerous and it gets layered and it gets bloody. And a quiet book about a country house in England turns into a page-turner. A maze of interconnecting details that first have your head spinning and then have you say “Well goddamn!” How did that happen?
Oh and that magical blowjob that turned a straight man gay? Turns out not so much. See the ‘boys will be boys’ excuse at Uni and in the military doesn’t pass muster if, well, maybe you liked it? And maybe you’ve found this chap attractive and desirable all along but just now figured that out? How did that happen?
So, I get to the end and I’m left with a bit of a head scratcher. I have no idea how this dread of possibly hating a KJ Charles book as I began to read turned into me bowing at the mastery of a KJ Charles story so perfectly written to challenge me as a reader. And the capper? It was not done in a way that was in your face or over the top or screams “ENJOY ME BECAUSE OF (this), (this), and (this)”. It was fun and delightful. But it was also wickedly smart.
It will be, to some, just a perfectly lovely light mystery novel about England.
To me, well, it will be the book that I learned my lesson: do not doubt KJ Charles
Title: Think of England
Author: KJ Charles
Release Date: July 1, 2013
Purchase Links: Samhain