RogerBW's Blog

On the Bias, Celia Lake 19 July 2023

2020 romantic fantasy, sixth of its loose series. Castalia Jones has built up her dressmaking business to the point where she can make choices about what to make, and for whom. Benton is Lord Carillon's valet, factotum, and household manager. They don't particularly like each other…

Romances often have the protagonists falling into love at first sight, or at least showing an immediate attraction. Not so here: the two respect each other as professionals, but Cassie isn't fond even of the idea of a life in service, and Benton, an ex-soldier, is fretting as his master prepares to shift from his adventurous life of exploration and espionage to the duties (both mundane and magical) of a married lord of the manor.

So their relationship starts as a professional one; then Cassie starts passing along rumours that are being started against Carillon and his fiancée; then Benton tracks some of them down, and gets wounded catching a bird at a cockfight, and she has to patch him up… these are definitely grown-ups with their own lives and preferences, and it's pleasing to see a slow growth of respect into affection.

As usual, the dramatic plot is subordinated to the romantic one, but it is at least resolved. As with In the Cards things will make more sense if you've read Goblin Fruit; indeed, characters return briefly from several earlier books in the series.

If you know anything about dressmaking – I know just a tiny amount – there's plenty of well-researched period costuming, as well as how the availability of magic affects what can be done.

Good fun. As usual not world-shaking, but it's great to see romance between people who don't need to hurt each other or have Big Misunderstandings to prove their affections.

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Previous in series: In the Cards | Series: Mysterious Charm | Next in series: Seven Sisters

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