The climax of this book is a climax. The scaffolding on which the romance is hung is a fairly entertaining story about “English magic,” a phrase I associate more with Suzanna Clarke’s novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell but have encountered elsewhere since that novel came out. There are a whole hidden population of magicians in the world and the ones in England belong to two or three major families who act a good deal like the frivolous titled country estate dwellers of any number of novels about English manners. This sounds a bit disdainful as a description only because this is the territory of so much fiction, romance and otherwise, but Marske deals with it adequately well and mixes the idea of capricious magic into the more or less traditional approach to Edwardian entertaining in a fabulous country house. The romance is handled very deftly and reticently at first, and then Edwin and Robin, our couple, are plunged into the erotic. There are not a lot of sex scenes but they are quite long and quite detailed and the first of them is a bit laughable, involving a rhapsodic several pages of the two men giving each other hand jobs, which is not a particularly rhapsodic process. The other scenes, one involving kinky magic, are more successful, but for me a bit embarrassing. It’s a fine line between romance and erotica and then on to softcore porn; this novel shies clear of the last, but only because the sex scenes are few. But there is also something gutsy in refusing to fade back from the two men and their physical engagement, and there is a reward to following the men all the way through their sex to the other side. Although maybe not so gutsy in the aftermath of Fifty Shades of Whatever. The fantasy feels ordinary for the most part, a search-for-a-powerful-artifact story. The construction of magic in this world has a certain intricacy that is worthwhile. It was a pleasant read but felt mechanical in the end.